Making the Great Picture

THE GREAT PICTURE

In the spring and summer of 2006, six photographers—the Legacy Project collaborative—and hundreds of volunteers, artists, and experts spent thousands of hours transforming a Southern California military jet hanger into a gigantic camera. The aim was to make a single black and white photograph—by far the largest ever produced.

Working in a military jet-hangar-as-camera, the group hand-applied 80 liters of gelatin silver halide emulsion to a seamless 3,375-square-foot canvas substrate custom-made in Germany for the project. Development required a custom Olympic pool-sized developing tray, ten high-volume submersible pumps, and 1,800 gallons of black and white chemistry. The Great Picture was completed in July 2006.

Photography is a kind of overstatement,” wrote Susan Sontag, “a heroic copulation with the material world.” In this case, the copulation was arguably more heroic—and certainly more prolonged—than most.

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