The World’s Largest Photo Returns Home to California

The Great Picture
The Great Picture

The world’s largest photograph taken on the world’s largest camera has returned home to California after being exhibited around the world.

Visitors to the Great Park in Irvine will be able to see The Great Picture once more: a 31-foot by 111-foot print showing a view of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro which used to operate on the site of the Great Park.

What is The Great Picture?

The Great Picture was created by six photographers on July 6, 2006, and effectively employed an abandoned jet hangar as a giant pinhole camera.

Six artists Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada set out to document as much of the El Toro air base before it was demolished and their magnum opus was The Great Picture.

The Legacy Project
The Legacy Project artists: (from left) Mark Chamberlain, Robert Johnson, Jerry Burchfield, Jacques Garnier, Douglas McCulloh, Clayton Spada

PetaPixel reported back in 2011 how over the course of two months the hangar was converted into a camera obscura darkening the space with 24,000 square feet of plastic, 1,300 gallons of foam filler, 1.52 miles of tape, and 40 cans of spray paint.

A staggering 80 liters of emulsion was used to make the canvas light-sensitive and the aperture was a 6mm hole in the side of the hangar that projected the image onto the canvas. The photograph was exposed for 35 minutes.

600 gallons of the traditional black and white developer was used to develop the canvas, and 1,200 gallons of fixer was applied afterward. It was then washed using fire hoses spraying at 750 gallons per minute.

The Great Picture
The Great Picture

“We pulled it off through the help of probably 400 volunteers, at one time or another, who came to help,” Jacques Garnier, president of the Legacy Project, tells the Daily Pilot in a recent interview.

“There was a row of former jet hangars, helicopter squadron hangars that were facing the control towers that would have just made beautiful camera obscuras, so we picked one and went from there,” adds Clayton Spada. “After that, for the year from the time of inception to the time we actually did it, we were fundraisers, we were politicians, we were construction workers, anything but artists.

“It was fortunate that we had beer because if we had any inkling of what we would have gotten ourselves into, we would have easily talked our way out of it, just the logistics of this. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s one of the most insane things we’ve ever done.”

The Great Picture: Making the World’s Largest Photograph is currently on exhibit until May 7 at Palm Court Arts Complex in Irvine

The amazing photograph was previously shown at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China.

Image credits: Photographs by The Legacy Project