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

In Focus: Jerry Uelsmann

Decades before the advent of Photoshop, Jerry Uelsmann was already creating an impressive and groundbreaking collection of photographic work. His darkroom-developed images combining multiple negatives would ultimately lead to a revolution of mid-20th century photography and a career that spans five decades. His black and white images are part of the Annenberg Space for Photography’s current exhibition, Digital Darkroom. We are thrilled to have Uelsmann as one of our featured artists and excited to learn what the “forefather” of manipulated photography may be up to next.

Born in Detroit in 1934, Uelsmann developed an interest in photography as a teenager.  After receiving his MFA from Indiana University, he began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960. It was during this decade that other photographers would evaluate his work of combining unrelated negatives into imaginary and fantastical scenes as not being true photography. Uelsmann says “I would show my work to other photographers, they’d always say, ‘Well, this is interesting, but this is not photography.’ I’d buy the same cameras, spend hours in the darkroom, but somehow they were locked in to the sort of documentary, camera-conceived imagery tradition, which still dominates photography.”

A major break for Uelsmann occurred in 1967, when his images were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  His collection of work, that just a few years earlier had been criticized, was now viewed by a dedicated faction as avant-garde and boundary breaking. “It was like being blessed by the Pope,” he later joked about the experience. Uelsmann would continue to defy and challenge tradition over the following decades leading to a retrospective of his work with the publication of “The Mind’s Eye” encompassing fifty years of his photography.

Despite the readily accessible digital photography programs such as Photoshop, Uelsmann has no interest in changing his work routine, even now at 77 years old. When recently asked why he continues to work in the darkroom, rather than transition to digital he said, “I fell in love with the alchemy of the photographic process and to this day, watching that print come up in the developer is magic for me. I still find it a wonderful, challenging experience.”

Learn more about master craftsman Jerry Uelsmann with a visit to the Annenberg Space for Photography. You can catch his surreal images along with the work of our additional sixteen featured artists in Digital Darkroom now through May 28th.

The Final Days of Digital Darkroom

The last day to see Digital Darkroom is May 28 (Memorial Day!) and that date is right around the corner. Not only does that mean that those lovely street banners all over town will be coming down soon but so will the photographs currently hanging on the ASP gallery walls. Seems like the show just opened but in fact there are only a few mere weeks left to see the exhibit in person.

For those who have yet to experience Digital Darkroom, come for the first time and for those who have, drop by for a second or even third time! Pick up a pair of free 3D glasses and enjoy the 3D images on display; watch the original 30-minute documentary film in beautiful 4K resolution; See the 14-minute 3D film in our special screening room; Most of all, come immerse yourself in the astounding worlds created by the 17 artists and photographers.

Richard Ehrlich Steps Up to the IRIS Nights Podium

Photographer Richard Ehrlich opened up his IRIS Nights lecture last night by saying that he loved quotes so much that he would incorporate many of them into his presentation. His first quote of the night was a light-hearted one by photographer Elliott Erwitt: "It's about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby."

Richard stressed that he wanted his lecture to provide him an opportunity to be an advocate for photo manipulation, or rather, photo optimization as he prefers to call it. Tinkering with photos, he said, has been a part of photography since the medium's inception in the 19th Century.

He pointed out that the cannonballs in this photo taken during the Crimean War had been added to the original photo over 150 years ago. A convincing image even by today's standards.

Another favorite quote by Richard is credited to Richard Avedon: "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

Richard talked in depth about the "decisive moment," the point in time that a photographer finds the right image. Learn more about his thoughts on this when his lecture is posted on our website very soon.

He also spoke about recent technological advances with digital cameras, detailing the impressiveness of Femto photography and the amazing Lytro and Red cameras.

One of our favorite quotes of the night was said by none other than the man of the hour himself. Said Richard, "There's nothing like the ability to realize your dream and the imagination than the digital." We couldn't agree more.

Thanks for such a great lecture, Richard! Check back soon to view his lecture online.

You can learn more about Richard on his official website.

All images by Unique for the Space

The Joy Of Living In A Digital World

By Brooke Shaden

When I picked up a camera for the first time it was not to experiment with photography. In fact, I didn't even like photography. Instead it was to very strategically turn my dreams into reality. The first time I picked up a camera I never doubted that I would be able to create my own dream worlds using this tool. To me, this was a fact and that fact has propelled me into creating my own unique worlds.

As most people do, I start with an empty frame in a camera. The possibilities of what I could fill that frame with are endless. I choose not to point my camera at the world around me and click, hoping to get something magical. Instead, I fill the frame with my imagination. I will not take a picture unless the scene in front of my camera is as surreal and whimsical, or dark and mysterious, as what I see in my dreams. My pictures are staged, very much the same way that a painter chooses his subject, composition, color palette and other aesthetic choices before picking up a paint brush. I make these decisions before a camera lands in my hands, often only taking about five pictures per photo shoot. Every detail is pre-conceived before a piece of equipment ever enters the picture. However, every detail could hardly be conceived of in the world of photography without technology. I am a girl of the digital age.

In my image "Running from Wind," I was able to carefully construct the details of the picture. The girls run in front of the camera, both looking back, insinuating that something is chasing them. Every detail speaks to a timeless scene, a world that is unique from our own yet still touches on reality, and a mood that is not of this world. All of this is possible because of the digital age. That picture was created on a very early, foggy morning, just me, a camera, tripod, and my friend. It was created in a day but conceived of for much longer. My dreams are my reality; I know them very intimately. The joy of living in a digital world is that dreams no longer have to be kept inside. They can be turned into new worlds; they can be our reality.

The journey from the moment I picked up my first camera to my current life has been one of rebirth. The technical pieces that I taught myself along the way are irrelevant compared to the way I have changed how I think. No longer do I imagine the world I want to live in, I live in it every day. To part with my camera now would be like saying goodbye to a piece of myself. The two have become woven together and intertwined, and there is no future for me without photography.

Brooke Shaden's photographs seem like little films, complete with character, tension and a lush visual sense that might easily be called cinematography. One of her exhibited photographs was recently selected by director Ron Howard as one of eight photos used to inspire a short film. See her work in Digital Darkroom which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Mother's Day at The Space

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate Mother's Day at the Space for Photography on Sunday! There was complimentary food and drinks on hand for everyone who came in to celebrate mothers and take in the final days of our current exhibit, Digital Darkroom. Those who stopped in even had the option to have their photo taken (like the adorable one above!) and share it via Facebook, Twitter or just plain old email. We hope everyone had a marvelous time and an outstanding Mother's Day!

The Creative Revolution

By Joel Grimes

It is estimated that in 2009 Flickr hosted over 4 billion photographs and Facebook users uploaded 30 billion images.  This is just the tip of the iceberg with no end in sight. On the video front, YouTube now has over 12 billion views per month.  We are without question in the greatest age of photography since its introduction.  Never in the history of mankind has there been a greater opportunity to experience the creative process, and the ability to share it with the masses. We are in a Creative Revolution.

I often meet people that have only been taking pictures for a few years, and when presented with their work, I am simply blown away. In today's digital capture and manipulation era and with the hyper accelerated pace of learning and sharing, it is possible to accomplish in one or two years what took an average person say, 20 years ago, to accomplish in 10 years.

In 1979 Bob Dylan wrote about a "Slow Train Coming," but in 2011 that train is moving at a high rate of speed.  Miss that train and you will be left behind.  It is a rude awaking for those of us who grew up with Bob Dylan and have dug in our heals, resisting the digital age.

Part of accepting this new digital era is being willing to re-examine the very definition of photography.  If we define photography by the technical process or by the tools used in that process then we are bound and obligated to work within that definition.  A few years ago when I first started doing photographic composites, I received all sorts of criticism stating I was no longer a photographer but had now become an illustrator.  Somehow we had accepted the manipulations done in camera and in the darkroom, but when it came to working in programs like Photoshop, well that was somehow cheating and crossed the line of traditional acceptance.

A few years ago I sat down and asked the question, "from the glass plate process to the new digital process what constant denominator has never changed and will never change in the future?"  The answer is this: the creative process.  In the end, the single greatest dominating unchanging force that drives the photographic process is that it takes an artist to create.  What tools we use should be completely secondary to the creative process.

Once I let go of my preconceived definitions of photography and focused on my exploration and uniqueness as an artist, my work literally took on a whole new life. I was now free to explore the creative process without the restraining boundaries that once kept me in check by the definitions established by others.

Joel Grimes makes his living in commercial photography but has a parallel career in art. Grimes combines an artistic vision with an impressive fluency in the technical aspects of photography, creating images that make viewers see the world anew. See his work in Digital Darkroom which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

'Digital Darkroom' Film Wins Award

Congratulations to Arclight Productions on their recent win at the New Media Film Festival here in Los Angeles. Their film, Digital Darkroom: The Art of 3D won Best in Category for 3D Content. The short documentary film was presented exclusively at the Annenberg Space for Photography's Digital Darkroom exhibition.

The 4th annual New Media Film Festival was held on June 11 & 12, 2013 at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles.

Watch Digital Darkroom: The Art of 3D (in either 3D and 2D!) in its entirety here.

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