The giant camera is being built by photographer Dennis Manarchy as part of his "Vanishing Cultures" project. For the project, Manarchy plans to travel to all 50 U.S. states with a view to creating a collection of photos and stories that "celebrates the full cycle of the American experience, that which is fading, that which is thriving, and that which is just beginning."
The gigantic camera is fashioned after traditional film cameras of the past, sporting veneers of recycled wood, leatherette, and brass fittings. Since the camera is so huge, its frame will be made with welded aluminum adding additional strength and stability. Given the camera's large size, it is capable of capturing images at an exceptionally high resolution. The detail found in just the eyeball of one of the portraits is "one thousand times greater than what you get with an average negative."
The size of the camera allows Manarchy to take exceptionally large photos, but it also allows those around to get a better understanding of how cameras work in general. The back of the camera opens, so people can walk through and see how the camera works firsthand. The camera's back is also retrofitted with a large plasma screen so people around can view portrait sittings in progress.
Since the camera is so large, part of the photo taking process goes on physically inside the camera's body. To get inside, the lens mount on the camera opens like a door, and provides access to the camera's film easel. The easel not only holds a large piece of film (negatives from the camera measure in at an astounding 6 x 4.5 feet), but also holds the electronic controls for things such as the camera's focus, scale, and lights.
Negatives from the camera have to be taped to a window for inspection after a photograph is taken, and the negatives will ultimately also be exhibited (attached to thin LED panels) as fine art as well.
The project is still in its planning stages, with no dates yet on the map for its cross-country travels. A video overview of the American Portrait Project is below and you can read more about the camera at the project's website.