The Great Picture

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The Great Picture in its pinhole camera hangar.
Orthorectified negative (top) and positive (bottom) representations of the photograph, partially obscured by two people.

As of 2011, The Great Picture (111 feet (34 m) wide and 32 feet (9.8 m) high) holds the Guinness World Record for the largest print photograph, and the camera with which it was made holds a record for being the world's largest.[1] The photograph was taken in 2006 as part of the Legacy Project, a photographic compilation and record of the history of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as it is being transformed into the Orange County Great Park. The project used the abandoned F-18 hangar #115 at the closed fighter base in Irvine, California, United States, as the world's largest pinhole camera. The aim was to make a black-and-white negative print of the Marine Corps air station with its control tower and runways, with the San Joaquin Hills in the background. The photograph was unveiled on July 12, 2006, during a reception held in the hangar and was exhibited for the first time at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, on September 6, 2007.[2][3]

Construction of the pinhole camera[edit]

Volunteers lift the muslin cloth into place.[4]

Six photographer artists, Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada plus approximately 400 assistants built the world's largest pinhole camera in building #115 at El Toro using 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) six mil black visqueen, 1,300 US gallons (4,900 l) of foam gap filler, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of 2-inch (5.1 cm) wide black Gorilla Tape and 40 US gallons (150 l) of black spray paint to make the hangar light-tight. The camera measured 160 ft (48.76 m) wide x 45 ft (13.71 m) high x 80 ft (24.38 m) deep.[1]

A seamless piece of muslin cloth was made light sensitive by coating it with 21 US gallons (80 l) of gelatin silver halide emulsion and then hung from the ceiling at a distance of about 80 feet (24 m) from a pinhole, just under 6 millimetres (0.24 in) in diameter and situated 15 feet (4.6 m) above ground level on the hangar's metal door. The distance between the pinhole and the cloth was determined to be 55 feet (17 m) for best coverage, and the exposure time was calculated at 35 minutes.[5]


The Great Picture was washed using fire hydrants.
A long-exposure of The Great Picture being developed.

The hangar-turned-camera recorded a panoramic image of what was on the other side of the door using the centuries-old principle of "camera obscura" or pinhole camera. An image of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station appeared upside down and flipped left to right on film after being projected through the tiny hole in the hangar's metal door.

The opaque negative image print was developed by 80 volunteers during five hours in a vinyl pool liner custom tray, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, with 600 US gallons (2,300 l) of traditional developer and 1,200 US gallons (4,500 l) of fixer pumped into the tray using high volume pumps. The photograph was then washed using fire hoses attached to two fire hydrants. The finished print is 111 feet (34 m) wide and 32 feet (9.8 m) high with an area of 3,505.75 sq ft (325.695 m2).[6][7]


The Great Picture has been exhibited in the following venues:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Guinness Certifies World's Largest Photograph and Camera". PR Newswire, United Business Media, July 13, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Culver Center of the Arts – The Great Picture". Retrieved September 12, 2011.
  3. ^ Liz Goldner. “Riverside, CA: Creating ‘The Great Picture,’” Art Ltd, Woodland Hills, CA, September 2011.
  4. ^ Mournian, Anthony. "The Great Picture". YouTube. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Wang, Sue (April 2, 2011). "World's Largest Photograph – The Great Picture by The Legacy Project". Cafa Art Info. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Smith, Sonya (July 13, 2006). "World's largest photograph taken in defunct El Toro base hangar". The Orange County Register. Archived from the original on August 6, 2006.
  7. ^ Associated Press. "Guinness Certifies World’s Largest Photograph and Camera," 14 June 2006.
  8. ^ "The Great Picture: The World's Largest Photograph & The Legacy Project". THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH IN THE ARTS. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  9. ^ Derek Olson. “The Great Photo,” OC Weekly, 9 August 2007.
  10. ^ Douglas McCulloh. “The World Largest Photograph,” Zone Zero Newsletter, Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  11. ^ Tyler Stallings. “The World’s Largest Statement on Photography,” Artweek, Los Angeles, 10 July 2011.
  12. ^ Contemporary Art Center New Orleans “The Great Picture: The World’s Largest, Photograph,” November 2013
  13. ^ Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “’The Great Picture Goes on View at the National Air and Space Museum” 22 April 2014.
  14. ^ Tim Barribeau. “World's Largest Photograph Goes On Display At National Air and Space Museum”, 2 May 2014.
  15. ^ Meg Wagner. “Big picture thinking! World’s largest photograph measuring 31ft high and 107ft wide goes on display ” New York Daily News, 15 May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Photographic Possibilities, Third Edition, Robert Hirsch; 304 pages; January, 2009; published by Focal Press, Oxford, England.
  • The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Second Edition, Christopher James; 660 pages; February, 2008; published by Thomson Delmar Publishing, Clifton Park, New York.
  • Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application, Fourth Edition, Eric Renner; 272 pages; November, 2007; published by Focal Press, Oxford, England.

External links[edit]