Alinari History of Italy
Università IULM Fratelli Alinari Università degli studi di Milano with the contribution of
Fondazione Cariplo


This is not a box

Photographs taken by Marino Sterle during the "This is not a box" didactic workshop held by MNAF Alinari National Museum. With special thanks to Liceo Artistico di Porta Romana Firenze, class 4G Photography and Film/Television course, year 2011, Photography lab

didactic workshop

experimenting with the dark room

about 5 hours

You will need:
a cardboard box, black and white cardboard, packing tape and duct tape, glue, pencil, eraser, square, scissors, cutter, paper perforator, eventually white labels and camera.

following the indications, turn a cardboard box into a dark room. If you go inside the box you will see the outside projected on the walls of the box only reversed and upside down...

Suggestions on how to work independently:

Photo by Marino Sterle
1. Assemble the box with tape leaving only one side open.
Photo by Marino Sterle
2. Make a hole in a small piece of black cardboard and a square window in a larger piece of black cardboard.

Photo by Marino Sterle
3. Cut out a square opening in the box where you will attach the two pieces of black cardboard.
Photo by Marino Sterle
4. Line the inside of the box with white cardboard ...

Photo by Marino Sterle
5. ... or with white labels.
Photo by Marino Sterle
6. Step inside the box.

Photo by Marino Sterle
7. Close the box with the help of a friend.
Photo by Marino Sterle
8. Use a black cloth to avoid light filtering through the cracks, taking care not to cover the hole.

Photo by Marino Sterle
9. Take the big box where there are interesting sights and people passing by.
Photo by Marino Sterle
10. Observe, draw and photograph the images that form inside the box.


  1. Why are the people in the last picture upside down?
  2. What would happen if the cardboard lining the inside of the box was soaked in photosensitive substances?
  3. Did you know that the first photographers looked at upside down pictures?
  4. In Photography the "dark room" serves two different purposes. Which?
  5. Would the image that you see in the box change if you were to put a lens over the hole?
  6. In which way does the activity resemble the experience of film making?

this experiment can made also on a different scale. If the cardboard box is small, you can observe the images by sticking your head in the box or just your eyes. You can also black out a room leaving only a small hole where the window is.

Suggestions for continuing the activity:
follow the suggestions or invent your own creative path: answer the questions, take part in MNAF didactic workshops in Florence.

For further information:
Gabriella de Polo
Didactic Coordination
Fratelli Alinari. Fondazione per la storia della Fotografia


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