Size matters for this picture

"The Great Picture" made its international debut at the Art Museum at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing on March 8.

The world's largest silver gelatin print, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records, captures the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and future Great Park in Irvine.

At three stories high and 11 stories wide, the photograph was developed in 2006 using a developing tray the size of a swimming pool. The muslin that it's printed on was imported from Germany from one of only two mills in the world that could create it.

A hanger converted into a pinhole camera took the shot.

"We knew it was going to big, we were more interested in the logistics … how do we turn the hanger into a camera and how do we shoot a picture that has something to say," Jacques Garnier, one of the photographers who participated in the project, said in a phone interview.

"The Great Picture" was part of the Legacy Project, which was started by Garnier, the late Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Doug McCulloh, Clayton Spada and Rob Johnson.

Garnier made his first visit to China for the opening and was excited about the response.

"Chinese are really at the forefront of the art scene right now," he said. "I think they were fascinated that we used ancient technology to make something in this digital age."

Garnier explained that about 3,000 years ago, the Chinese alluded to the pinhole camera and that the curators picked up on the importance of their photo right away.

The exhibit is also significant because it is one in a handful of museums worldwide that can actually fit the photograph inside their building.

Garnier hopes the piece will cause people to reflect on the future of photography and its emergence with digital technology. A true believer in the craft, he doesn't think days in the dark room are dead.

"Everybody does Photoshop now. It's just a technological dark room," he said. "People who know how to use film and how to develop will actually make better photographers."

The photo will be on display until March 28 at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in the Chinese capital.

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