If you happen to find yourself in Washington, D.C. between now and November, you should make a pit stop at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located outside the nation’s capital in Chantilly, Virginia (near Dulles International Airport). There, you’ll find the largest photograph ever produced. Called “The Great Picture,” the Smithsonian says the 3,375-square-foot image was captured by the world’s largest pinhole camera, and spans nearly the entire length of a hangar.
Measuring 111 x 32 feet, “The Great Picture” currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest photograph ever made, the Smithsonian says. The black-and-white photo was actually created in 2006, when six artists and hundreds of volunteers converted a massive decommissioned F/A-18 fighter jet hangar at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California, into a giant pinhole camera – also known as a camera obscura – sealing every part of the interior to prevent outside light from leaking in. With a pinhole measuring only a quarter-inch, light was allowed through that aperture to expose a gelatin silver halide canvas, capturing an image of the military base outside the hangar – showing the control tower, structures, and runways, and the San Joaquin Hills in the background. This photographic technique has been used for thousands of years.
“‘The Great Picture,’ as a photograph, is distinct from almost every photograph in the world,” said Douglas McCulloh, one of the six artists. “It remains linked to, and an integral part of, both the camera and the place by containing the information of the place within it. It also contains the process…You can’t look at it and not ask, what was the camera?”
Because of the size, the photo isn’t often put on display.