Though Abelardo Morell ’77, hasn’t been a student at Bowdoin for many years, his connection to the College still runs deep. Morell, a respected photographer specializing in camera obscura, is currently displaying his work in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Morell worked with Nevan Swanson ’18 to develop the project, completing it in the summer of 2015. He also worked with with Swanson last February to photograph winter scenes in his Brunswick-centric series “A Mind of Winter.”

Morell had his first contact with photography as a junior at Bowdoin in John Mckee’s photography class. Since then, he has prospered as an internationally-known artist. He began to experiment with his innovative camera obscuras in 1991.

Morell had wanted to return to Bowdoin to create this particular photograph of the Quad for several years. Having first learned the basics of photography in the basement of the art museum, he was interested in honoring that space through his artwork. Morell also worked as a security guard at the museum steps, looking out on the same view he would recreate 45 years later.

“I began to do photography in Moulton Union. I don’t know if it’s still there,” said Morell. “There was a dark room there so the very early beginnings [of my career] are all tied up with Bowdoin. It was a natural landscape for me to feel out.”

Camera obscura is a special form of photography with an intricate process. Using the rotunda of the museum, Morell enlisted facilities, the Museum staff, his assistant and Swanson to help him prepare the space. Creating a “light-tight” room, they blocked all light-emitting sources of the room, covering the windows, doors, skylights and the rotunda’s cupola with garbage bags, matte boards and tarps. They painted the the door that faces the quad, covered it in black plastic in which Morell cut a small hole, where he placed a lens that projected an upside-down view of the quad onto the opposing wall of the room. Placing a prism on the lens, Morell flipped the image.

According to Swanson’s description of the process, the vibrant summer scene stretched across the interior wall of the otherwise dark room, and Morell, using 30-45 second exposures, captured the image with his camera.

Swanson described the procedure as one of trial and error, with Morell communicating from inside with someone on the Quad via walkie-talkie, directing people where to sit, lounge and walk as a part of the photograph.

“It was like we were choreographing a whole dance,” said Morell.

“Then he invites some of the museum people in to just sit there,” said Swanson. "Because it’s really cool to just sit there for five or six minutes and just watch the clouds change inside of a room.”

The relaxed, grassy image of a Bowdoin summer reminded both Morell and Co-director of the Museum of Art Frank Goodyear of a mix between historical works Italian artist Raphael’s “School of Athens” and “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette” by artist Georges Seurat.

“He was thinking of the composition in terms of the history of art and that these references add to the larger meaning of the picture,” said Goodyear. “Which is really a celebration of this place of intellectual inquiry and creativity.”

The photograph belongs to an edition of 100 prints that will be sold through the museum. Morell intends for the proceeds to create an endowment for the photography department at the College. According to Goodyear, Morell hopes the money will specifically help acquire contemporary work by young photographers for the Museum’s collection.

“The resulting work is really beautiful,” Goodyear said of the piece. “It’s a great act of generosity.”

The Museum of Art maintains a collection of upward of 50 Morell pieces, many of which have been exhibited in the museum’s galleries. His photograph of is displayed in the museum’s rotunda.