An Atlanta bomb squad shut down traffic for three hours Monday while it detonated a pinhole camera attached to a bridge that was part of a local university art project.
The homemade camera, which was built with a Pepsi can, had a note attached to it, stating “Slow motion video. Please do not move until spring.”
But local authorities did not take any chances, calling in police, firefighters and the bomb squad, who sent in a robot with a camera to detonate the non-explosive camera.
Now the Georgia State student, who has not been identified, might be charged with reckless conduct.
The tube-shaped device that was blown up before the roads were re-opened was actually a pinhole camera being used in a solargraphy project to track the rising and setting of the sun over a three-month period, Georgia State spokesman Don Hale said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on how long the camera had been there.
“Students were instructed to take their cameras home and to place them in locations that would provide interesting scenes with bright sunlight,” Hale said. “The locations were selected by the students.”
There’s the answer. Monday’s fiasco was all the result of a take-home project that apparently one student didn’t take home.
It was up to each of the 18 students in the class to find a spot for their own project, the university said. The university was made aware of the art project Tuesday morning and, through its police department, immediately informed the Atlanta Police Department, Hale said.
Only a handful of the projects were mounted in public places, and the university and police were removing those Tuesday. No information was released on where those cameras were located.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Atlanta police said the student responsible for taping the project to the bridge could be charged with reckless conduct once the investigation is complete.
Assistant Chief Shawn Jones said the small object looked like an “explosive device” to the APD and he asked the public – particularly university students – to refrain from putting objects up in public that could be mistaken for harmful devices.
According to a Hapeville police incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday, the suspicious device found around 3 p.m. Tuesday had a note on it that stated, “this can is a solargraphy project for my intro to studio class.”
Hapeville police knew a similar device shut down the Downtown Connector a day earlier, but opted to block vehicular and pedestrian traffic and call in a bomb squad because the device, in addition to having a 12-ounce can wrapped in duct tape, also included two ¾-inch steel pipes with four electrical wires protruding from the top.
The Atlanta police bomb squad examined the device from a distance with binoculars, and later up close, and determined that it was not a pipe bomb, according to the incident report.
Hapeville police Tuesday evening posted a notice about the incident on the city’s website:
“Officers responded to the pedestrian bridge by the Train Depot at approximately 3 p.m. in reference to a suspicious package. The package turned out to be a Georgia State University student’s art project. Unfortunately, the investigation caused a minor traffic delay but the safety of our citizens must always come first.”
Solargraphy involves using a pinhole camera to shoot extremely long exposures of scenes. Photographers who engage in it often leave their cameras fixed to outdoor locations for months or years in order to capture the path of the sun across the sky.
Waiting until the whole exposure is complete before seeing if an image turned out is painful enough, but there’s another major difficulty that can cause practitioners pain: the cameras are sometimes mistaken for bombs.
That’s what happened last Thursday over in Virginia. The Roanoke Police department received a report of a suspicious device strapped to one of the metal support beams of theMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge with zip ties.
By sheer coincidence, there was a memorial and prayer service for Martin Luther King scheduled to be held nearby later in the day, so the police didn’t want to take any chances. Thus, they treated the device as an extremely dangerous bomb.