Camera Obscura, Timatatanga Hou

Photo showing the Camera Obscura facility with bike-parking and information

The Whangārei Camera Obscura is an interactive sculpture on the Hātea Loop walk.

A camera obscura is a darkened room with a small hole or lens at one side through which an image is projected onto a wall or table opposite the hole.

Visitors can enter the shell-like structure to find a surprising "upside-down projection room" inside showing the celebrated Bascule bridge, Te Matau ā Pohe and its surrounds, complete with vehicles, boats, people, skudding clouds and flowing water. 

The attraction offers visitors and residents a simple yet wonderful phenomena of light projection and educational opportunities. Visitors can adjust the image using a movable aperture on the wall of the camera obscura.

It is one of only a handful of obscura sculptures in the world and is among the largest.

Mobility access

People who need mobility access to Camera Obscura sculpture can call our Customer Service centre and request a gate code.

Phone: 09 430 4200

The code will let people access the service road that runs from the Pohe Island Car Park directly to the Camera Obscura sculpture.

A map showing mobility vehicle access to the Camera Obscura.

Who was involved?

The Whangārei Camera Obscura was a community-led project designed and project managed by three Whangārei creatives, from 2016 - 2020:

  • photographer Diane Stoppard
  • architect Felicity Christian
  • sculptor Trish Clarke.

It was gifted to the people of Whangārei as a finished artwork in November 2020.

Security cameras, with real time recorded image projected onto the exterior screen, offer additional visibility and interaction for visitors.

Major funding and support partners include:

  • Culham Engineering
  • Whangarei District Council
  • the Provincial Growth Fund
  • Harnett Building
  • McKay
  • Bowling Infrastructure
  • and more than 50 other businesses and organisations from our District.

The story of Timatatanga Hou

The story of Timatatanga Hou

Timatatanga Hou translates from te reo as ‘new beginnings’ and describes the sensation of travelling into the obscura room and viewing Te Ao (the world) in a new way.

Timatatanga Hou introduction - Educational resource(PDF, 1MB)

Topics covered:

  • How the sculpture is designed
  • Meanings of the different designs that can be found in the artwork
  • Overview of the project completed in November 2020

What is a camera obscura and how does it work?

A camera obscura device consists of a lightproof box or room with a hole in one side.

Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside, where it is reproduced, inverted (thus upside-down), but with colour and perspective preserved.

How a camera obscura works - Educational resource(PDF, 1MB)

Topics covered:

  • Discovery and history of camera obscura effect
  • Optics - basic and advanced educational information
  • Colours and light

Make your own camera obscura

You can make your own camera obscura using a room in your home or school! 

You will need:

  • A suitable room
  • Basic tools - scissors, cutting blade, tape measure, staple gun
  • Black builders' plastic and tape
  • A thick blanket or blackout curtain to cover the door
  • A thick tin-foil item, like a pie-plate
  • A hole-punch

Educational resource:

Make your own camera obscura - Educational resource(PDF, 513KB)



Camera Obscura Timatatanga Hou, Hātea Loop, Pohe Island, Whangārei 0110  View Map

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