Friday, September 22, 2017

"Look, Mom! I put on these glasses and everything around me is in 3-D! " or: An informal review on misusing the Polaroid Miniportrait camera.

I have always had a fascination with 3-D photography. I was so thrilled with Viewmasters- even cartoon images in 3-D! I have never had sympathy or understanding for the naysayers! When ever people complained about eye strain or headaches, I would reply- “But it is like you are really there!” While viewing the movie Avatar with my wife, she said it made her feel sick. My reply was “Yeah, but it is magical!” My attitude is, if you get to walk with the dinosaurs or go to a faraway place without leaving your chair, you can put up with the discomfort(full disclosure, sometimes I experience some eye strain,too).

I was fortunate to take Saturday art classes at the Columbus College of Art and Design when I was a child. One of my favorite projects was 3-D drawing. It was simple, yet fascinating. Draw the image in blue, trace the image, then draw a copy of the image next to the first in red. The wider the images are apart, the closer they appear! My first drawing was called “Barnstorming in a 747” and I was being quite literal. There were flying boards , a decimated barn, and a 747 roaring towards you. I think there was even a cow in the air! Though my memory of it is probably quite superior to the real thing, I was smitten with 3-D.

By now, any readers know I collect Polaroid cameras. My fascination with Polaroid eventually led me to learning more about the company, and by virtue of that, 3-D. I don’t think it is common knowledge that Dr. Land, the founder of Polaroid created the first sheet polarizer which led to a slew of inventions 15 years prior to instant photography fame. One of the big ones was the way we see most 3-D movies today. The greyed out lenses are polarized plastic, one lens tuned to see one image and the other to see the second image. In 1939 the world was given the first taste of this technology at the World’s Fair in New York.

Though not thematically central to my paintings, several of my recent works can be viewed with ChromaDepth glasses in order to unlock the spatial potential of 3-D. These night time landscapes of abandoned homes use the strength of projecting/receding colors to create spaces you can enter visually. Featured on my web site, Old School is probably the best example.
So when I saw Polaroid cameras designed for ID photography- from drivers’ licenses to passports and everything in between- I had to try a stereographic image.

The Polaroid Miniportrait was a goal of mine. I saw online how it worked and i suspected alternate purposes for it. I have some passport cameras in my collection and they are fun at parties, as you can get multiple shots on one piece of film! This one intrigued me because I was thinking right away about 3-d possibilities. I have a stereograph viewer from the 1800s that i got from an antique store, so I took some shots- and it worked!

There are limitations to the method. First off, the lenses are closer together than the average human eyes. This means the illusion only works well with close up subject matter. Second, the camera is auto focus, but only up to about 6 feet(that pairs well with the first issue). The camera was designed for portraiture, so that is why it is dialed in on a fairly shallow depth of focus.

So what it boils down to is that it is perfect for portraits of people and puppies(and cats). I did a bunch of shots and the ones that are close up really work. All you have to do is take the shot at 6 feet or so, and mount the picture to a piece of cardstock(or you can use Polaroid print mounts that you can still find on ebay-that's what I do). Next just clip the image into your stereograph viewer!
Did I mention that this camera gives you full manual control? You can choose between two speeds and several apertures! The flash is also directional! If you are one of the people who get headaches from looking at 3-d, don't worry. You can always just use it to take portraits-or you can embrace the pain!

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