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Largest Film Camera in the World Currently Hanging Out Downtown

By Lisa White in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 30, 2013 10:00PM

Image credit: Dennis Manarchy/Butterflies& Buffalo

If you have glanced up from your commute home on the Madison or Milwaukee bus and thought you spied a giant camera at Two North Riverside Plaza, your eyes were not deceiving you. Part of the Butterflies & Buffalo project, the largest film camera in the world is currently on display now through October 31. The 35-foot-long film camera captures portraits on film negatives that are over 6-feet-tall and 4-feet-wide. The images have 1000x greater detail than digital film, creating vivid large-scale portraits that show every wrinkle, freckle and laugh line.

Photographer Dennis Manarchy, a Rockford native, created the project not only to honor the 200th anniversary of photography, but also to dedicate the project to documenting vanishing American cultures. Manarchy has already taken numerous photos (including a shoot where he turned a watershed into a camera in a swamp) and now wants to take the camera on the road to document at least 50 different distinctive cultural groups across America.

Funds were raised to build the actual camera, and now the project is working on raising money to further the scope of their documentation trip. You can donate online, which includes some pretty interesting art perks depending on the level of your donation. Make sure to stop by the plaza before the end of the month and check the exhibit out.

Besides the obvious joy of pretending to be in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids next to what I affectionately dubbed the “big ass camera,” it is worth stopping by to check out the photos on display as well. The details and expressions captures are so vivid it's almost spooky in nature, and is a wonderful mixture of different faces that we sometimes forget are a part of the American experience. You can follow along on Facebook and Twitter, and join the camera as it ventures out across the nation at the end of this month.