Chris Levine's Vision Comes To Life

By Chris Levine

In 2004, I was commissioned by the Island of Jersey to create a modern portrait of the Queen of England to commemorate the island's 800 years of allegiance to the crown. When word came back from the palace that Her Majesty 'was tickled by the idea of being made into a hologram' things got serious and a date was put in the diary for the shoot. When I initially got the call for the commission, I thought it was someone playing games. It seemed so far-fetched and hard to believe that, until an official date was set,  I told myself that shouldn't get too attached to the idea because I imagined it would all fall through. It was of course a great privilege and honour to be selected and it was a commission I put my heart and soul into. I couldn't have imagined the success of the work today.

As the project gained momentum I went through a series of reality checks. I am not a holographer though my vision for the piece was holographic. I chose as my collaborators the creative holographers Rob Munday and Jeffrey Robb who I'd worked with on many occasions and had made some incredible holograms together, and the US master holographer Dr John Perry who produced the original hologram as shown at Buckingham Palace and the Jersey Museum in 2004 as unveiled by Prince Charles. These were in my opinion the world's leading holographers and my ideal team. Luckily they all accepted the invitation to get involved. My assistant Nina Duncan was selected for me by the office of my friend the fashion photographer Mario Testino and I had the confidence of a highly capable team behind me. In developing the creative direction for the work, the inspiration came to me through my practice of meditation. [www.dhamma.org] and both images "Equanimity" and "Lightness of Being" relate fundamentally to meditative practice. I wanted to develop a piece of work that would be timeless and not bound by any iconography or stylistic language and resisted the use of any props or suggestive devices in the image. The portrayal of Her Majesty was in itself to communicate the basis of the relationship with the monarch and the Island and is intended to convey a sense of power and dignity in perfect harmony, equanimous to all. I got to choose Her Majesty's attire with her dresser Angela Kelly including the beautiful diadem she wore for the shoot. It was a surreal moment when Her Majesty arrived on the date, on time, wearing the clothes I had selected for her. I was very happy with the results of the first sitting though we had some frustrating technical issues on the day.

Within minutes of the first sitting being complete, one of Her Majesty's aides came to me and said that the Queen had enjoyed the sitting and if I'd like another to please write. Of course I was overjoyed to have another sitting and in the benefit of hindsight with one sitting under my belt, I decided on some fundamental changes to my camera angles and lighting and the work published is all from the second sitting. Perhaps one day I will show work from the first sitting which is in fact quite different. I also captured images of Her Majesty using a laser scanner 3D data and have yet to explore that material. "Equanimity" was the working title as used in the development stages of the project and I proposed it to Her Majesty and we agreed it as the formal title at Windsor Castle 2004. During the same meeting, the final choice of image for production as a hologram was made. The sense of stillness and calm was in part captured by through timing the exposures with the breathing cycle of Her Majesty as she sat for the lengthy exposures. The work has had extensive coverage around the world and I created a body of work out of the material from the sittings.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee this year, I worked again with holographer Rob Munday to use the original image sequence to create a holographic postage stamp for the Island of Jersey. It is to be mass produced using an advanced holographic dye process whereby a relief pattern of the holographic data is pressed into metallised foil. When light hits the surface of the foil, it is diffracted into the form of the image, a perfect scale reproduction of the original hologram. The stamp will be released by Jersey Post in June 2012. The image "Equanimity" will also appear on the forthcoming 100 pound bank note to be released this year. Both "Lightness of Being" and "Equanimity" will be featured in the forthcoming Queen Art and Image show at the National Portrait Gallery in London in May 2012, the first and final pieces in the show that celebrates the imagery that has been created of the most portrayed woman in history. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Chris Levine burst onto the scene in 2004 when he was hired to take the first 3D photographs of Queen Elizabeth II. He calls what he does “light-based work,” utilizing lasers, lenticular images and other cutting-edge techniques. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Above two photos © Nina Duncan

Grace Jones is Chris Levine's 'Superstar'

For Grace Jones' 2009 "The Hurricane Tour," "Digital Darkroom" photographer Chris Levine designed an element of the show in which a laser shined at the lustrous Swarovski crystal-encrusted bowler hat the singer wore during her performance of "Love is the Drug." This created a surreal and magical effect on stage that mesmerized the audience. Levine recreated the moment for his stunning photograph of Jones, entitled Superstar, which is above,

Said Chris about the moment in the show: "I got the Royal Festival Hall (in London) to take all lights to black out when we did it first time. The laser coming directly down from above onto (her) crystal headpiece...the audience went wild. It was a magical moment-a kind of flash point. Grace was back! It has to be one of the best live shows I had ever seen by any artist. It was electrifying!"

Want to see for yourself how well Levine's design played out during the show? Then watch Jones' "electrifying" performance of the song in the clip below.

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