Skip to Content
Closed now, next open tomorrow. Closed now, next open tomorrow.

Camera Obscura: La Giraldilla de la Habana in Room with Broken Wall

A work made of gelatin silver print.
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

Image actions

  • A work made of gelatin silver print.




Abelardo Morell
American, born Cuba 1948

About this artwork

The principle of the camera obscura (Latin for “dark room”) has been known since ancient Greek and Roman times: light passing through a small aperture in a dark chamber will project an upside-down, reversed image of the scene outside. The basis for all lens-based images, the camera obscura can be a room or a small, hand-held box—today’s camera.

Abelardo Morell used the camera obscura in his teaching, and in 1991 he began photographing the strange juxtapositions that occurred when the outside world was projected onto a domestic interior. He covered the windows of the chosen room with black plastic and poked a 3/8-inch hole in the material, placing a view camera inside to document the image that came through. The exposure took six to eight hours, eliminating all moving things from the scene and rendered objects that moved even slightly as a blur. In addition to making a number of choices to shape the relationship between interior and exterior—selecting the room, the view, and the position of the pinhole—Morell also often rearranges furniture and smaller objects in a given scene, so these seemingly natural photographs are in fact highly constructed.

In 2002 Morell—who had fled Cuba as a boy with his family—returned to the island for the first time in 40 years. In this camera obscura picture, he projected La Giraldilla, the sculpture of a female figure atop Havana’s old fortress that has become the symbol of the city, against crumbling walls and the remnants of a tiled shower, literalizing the decay of his homeland under Fidel Castro’s rule.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Abelardo Morell


Camera Obscura: La Giraldilla de la Habana in Room with Broken Wall


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 2002


Gelatin silver print


21 of 30


Image: 46.1 × 57 cm (18 3/16 × 22 1/2 in.); Paper: 51 × 60.8 cm (20 1/8 × 23 15/16 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Kay and Matthew Bucksbaum

Reference Number



© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions