Well, it looks like my quarterly spurt of activity has ended at last, given that I am now going weeks at a time without a decent post. I'm going to respond by capitulating to my slothfulness; I am holding myself to one good and one lame post a week now. To begin:
Katy has been listening to a fantastic multimedia photo-history podcast from an uncommonly devoted community college professor. One of the last mentioned what was and probably will remain the largest conventional negative camera ever made, used by George Lawrence to make a 4 1/2 x 8 foot glass plate negative of a locomotive for the upcoming Paris Exposition (Lawrence is most famous for using kites to lift cameras to 2000 feet for arial panoramas, such as those of San Francisco immediately following the Great Fire). Here it is in all of its 1400 lb glory, with about half of the team necessary to operate the beast:
Further research revealed the existence of the Moby C at 2nd and Bleeker in NYC, the largest polaroid camera in existence, capable of 40" by 106" prints. It was originally used to make life-size reproductions of paintings, but the scale is also, incidentally, ideal for life-size polaroids of humans as well. There is something about capturing 1:1 images that makes photographs break the bond of representation and recapture some of Walter Benjamin's destroyed "aura". It turns the camera into some kind of frozen mirror, a human-capturing device.
But no discussion of gargantuan cameras would be complete without a mention of the (very recent) Legacy Photo Project, which captured a 25' x 100' cloth negative using an abandoned aircraft hangar as a gigantic camera obscura:
So here you have it, the world's first Borges Mapping Engine. Or perhaps a new weapon, the landscape soul thievery device! Able to steal the special aura surrounding any vista, hillock or monument you can think of, for transport and re-display at will. Ancient town centers and natural wonders beware! Your charms are no longer safe!