Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mary King's Close and The Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

The next day we decided we would definitely go see the Camera Obscura - the oldest running tourist attraction in Edinburgh, but first we decided to visit Mary King's Close a residential area that was owned by a woman named Mary King.

There were lovely buildings to look at on the way.

We saw some unique people as we walked toward the building that housed the camera obscura.
This barrister was kind enough to put on his wig for us. He is quite handsome, isn't he!?

 There were also people performing for money.

We passed this fountain that was really cool. It is a memorial for someone named Susannah Alice Stephens, who loved birds and around the edge is the inscription, " Keep your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you."

You were not allowed to take photos in the close which was a narrow alley that lead to residences that were  stacked in many stories on top of each other when they became a dangerous and decrepit ghetto they were eventually paved under and so now they are under ground, but these used to simply be multi story apartment buildings with miserably small rooms and very little sunlight filtering down to the bottom levels. This is a different close.

I found a few images on the internet to show what some of the chambers were like. This one is the plague room, showing what it was like to be quarantined. The guy in black is a plague doctor (I think) - the guys who wore the weird bird masks to ward off the black death.

Near the end of the tour we see this narrow area with laundry as it might have been hung out.

One guy in the 19th century had an early model flushing toilet and refused to move even after the area had been condemned. This may be his place (or it might be something else.


 We  headed on to the camera obscura after the tour. Outside the building there were these cool distorting mirrors.

That is as thin as I will ever be! You make your way up various staircases until you get to the top where the camera obscura is,  but on the way there is all kind of fun stuff to do.
We passed this window with these weird lights and colors.

We had time to kill before we could go to the top floor and see the actual camera obscura, so we played in the exhibits.  This one had a series of mirrors that exchanged your body parts with the person next to you. This is Violet and myself merged.

There was a chamber with lights that spiralled around you and when you tried to walk, you felt dizzy because it seemed like the walkway was spinning.

There were also all these cool images of various tromp l'oeils. What is the word in the sign below?


There was a super neato mirror maze to wander through too.

At the top of the building you could go out and look at the streets below. (These are the same streets we would see projected by the camera obscura.)

This is the door to the camera obscura chamber. A camera obscura is basically a giant pin hole camera that projects the objects around it upside down on a white surface. You can see a diagram ofit on the door.

Here is what it actually looks like. Our white surface was a concave disc on which the  image of the street below was projected.

When we finished there were more goofy exhibits and  misleading images to engage with. In this one Violet and I sat on opposite sides of a piece of glass and controlled the light intensities to see a merged vision of our bodies. (I think we look better separately - so it is probably a good thing we can't have children together.)

Everyone has probably seen this image - but I am still amazed by it.  They had many others  in the exhibit which were fun to look at.

Violet got decapitated in this cabinet.

She became multiple in this  part of the exhibit.

This one shows the heat levels in our bodies. Violet is evidently hot-headed and I have sticky fingers (and sweaty eyeballs!)

Then there was this booth that transformed you to a child, a person of a different sex and to a monkey. This is supposedly a young me.

This is me as a man.

Here is baby Violet.

And here is Violet as a man. She thought she was a darned fine looking guy!
 You could also change your race. 

Doesn't Violet look gorgeous here!?

Here she is as a different species. The earrings really set off her eyes.

We could play with computers and make kalaidoscopic  art. Here is what I ended up with (not my favorite, but still a fun toy!)

In another part of the museum we could go into a room that changed our sizes.

For once in my life I got to be big and intimidating.

They had these very exciting automaton figures too.  A cat directing mice to sing three Blind mice for example in the piece below.

This was one of the finest things we saw at the museum. The image of the mountains below morphed into Jules Verne when you put the mirror tube on it. I have no idea how they did that!

There was a box with all these paper cut out figures that made scenes. Here is a shot through the peephole, but it was extremely long and complex and so I couldn't focus on much of the scene.

There were other psychedelic light shows.

and these weird pictures of old timers that morphed into monsters or ghouls when you changed positions.

And we did all that stuff in the morning. It was then time for lunch before we continued our tour of Edinburgh.

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