"My Goal Is To Bring A Smile To Peoples' Faces"

By Martine Roch

I've just returned home to France after a trip to Los Angeles for the fantastic opening of Digital Darkroom at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Being part of the stellar group of artists in this exhibit is a great honor. Both Pat Lanza, Director of Talent and Content at the Photography Space, and Russell Brown, curatorial advisor and one of the creators of Photoshop, have done an outstanding job with the show. Pat is a wonderful organizer, and Russell is such a comedian - the camera absolutely loves him, which makes him an entertaining subject in any photo.

The Annenberg crew was very attentive and did a great job making this event special for everyone - the artists as well as visitors to the Space. The Annenberg Foundation held a VIP reception for the artists just before the opening gala. It was fun to clink chilled champagne glasses with my fellow exhibitors and the Annenberg Space for Photography team.  I also had the great privilege of meeting Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, living legends of American surrealist photography. There were several other Frenchies exhibiting, including Jean-François Rauzier, Pierre Beteille and Jean-Marie Vives, who were also very happy to be part of the special exhibition. We'll meet again, I'm sure! After the bubbly reception, we went downstairs and crossed the esplanade to the Photography Space where the gala's guests awaited us.  What a great evening!

Over the last several months, many of the photographers featured in Digital Darkroom had been filmed for the show's short documentary film, which premiered at the opening gala. It was such a treat to see the finished film, which is an amazing Hollywood-like production. Seeing the artists talk about their work on huge, pin-sharp, high-definition screens really brought them and their work to life! The show also represents artists working in 3D with their own film shown in a special 3D screening room.

Something that caught my eye was the set of two impressive touch sensitive Microsoft Surface tables that featured digital images from the show. The interactive tables looked like oversized iPads, the likes of which I've never encountered before.  They're definitely worth taking the time to play with when you come see the show.

As for the photographs in the show, my ''characters'' are hung in a group together in the gallery, which seems to create a kind of family for them. For those unfamiliar with my work, these are created with friendly animal heads merged with human bodies. I was delighted to hear some people call my images ''unique!''

When creating one of my portraits, I think about the animal's back story. What would this creature say if it were human?  I then try to sum up the image's story with an amusing caption. My goal is to bring a smile to peoples' faces. I've heard various reactions to my work such as:

"It makes my pet special."

"I've never seen my dog this way before! It's too funny."

"My cat is like my baby. Seeing him like this makes me love him even more, if possible!"

"Oh! Now she's looking like my Auntie!"

I hope my work continues to evoke similar reactions from people who see my images in Digital Darkroom and elsewhere!

Street banners promoting the exhibit are peppered all over Los Angeles, and I can tell you that fellow Frenchie, Pierre Beteille, was happily surprised and, yes, quite proud to see his eggs image on streets all over the city!

This was such a wonderful experience and such a magical moment. Digital Darkroom is an impressive show, and I encourage all of you to come see it before it ends in May!

Martine Roch has pursued an artistic style that reflects her love of animals. Her digital creations have become an Internet sensation on the photo-sharing site Flickr, and now, have become available commercially throughout the world on notebooks and postcards. See her work in Digital Darkroom which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

(Top photo by Pierre Béteille)

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The "Digital Darkroom" Opening - In 3D!

Here's another reason to hang on to the free 3D glasses provided to you when you visit the Space. During last month's opening gala for "Digital Darkroom," Ted Grudowski, whose impressive 3D images are featured in the exhibit, walked around the party with his own 3D camera, snapping images of the artists and partygoers. Ted has kindly provided us those photos and here they are below. Put on those 3D glasses and enjoy!

Pre-opening gala, Ted's fellow "Digital Darkroom" 3D photographer Christopher Schneberger in front of the Photography Space.

The man behind the camera - Ted Grudowski himself!

The legendary Jerry Uelsmann striking a 3D pose.

Maggie Taylor in front of her outstanding digitally manipulated work.

Annenberg Foundation Executive Director addresses the crowd gathered to celebrate the show's opening.

The excited aforementioned crowd!

3D artist Mike Pucher, right, and his proud parents.

Exhibited photographer Martine Roch, who wants to make all of us smile, gives her best 3D pose.

Guests at the gala alongside some Annenberg Foundation folks.

Pierre Beteille strikes a pose toward the end of the night.

Thanks for the images Ted! Be sure to check out other (2D!) photos from the gala we posted shortly after the opening.

(all images by Ted Grudowski)

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Total Immersion

by Christopher Schneberger

I've always been a storyteller as much as a photographer. A little over ten years ago I began making narrative images dealing with spirits that revisited the spaces, and sometimes the people, that were important to them in life.  My spirits were not really the scary ghosts of horror movies or campfire lore, but ethereal interlopers that would visit lonely souls among the living.   A lost daughter would appear to her still living mother, a husband might return to his widow, or a vaporous ballerina would dance for a lonesome janitor in her former studio.

I would often include specific names and dates (birth & death) for these spirits.  Viewers and collectors find these specifics curious and ask me if there was some historical, factual basis for the imagery.  At a certain point I decided I would create a much more ambitious project - somewhat of a whodunit mystery in the form of an installation.  The project revolved around a pair of twins from the early 20th century, one of whom had mysteriously died but returned in spirit form to cavort with her sister.  I wrote an elaborate backstory for this involving their family and a scientist cum photographer, Dr. Charles Addison.  The exhibition took the form of an installation - the "recreation" of Dr. Addison's studio where (as I posit) Addison photographed Regina Crosswell and her ghostly twin, Lydia.  The room had period wallpaper, curtains and the same furniture pieces seen in the photographs.  I treated the installation as a museum exhibit, replete with curatorial text recounting the story.  Not much gave any indication that it was a fictitious artistic work.  To my great surprise, and joy, many people took it as fact and wondered how I had discovered this story.

Since that time, my work has continued to explore the supernatural in ordinary life, and particularly in America in the early 20th Century.  The next story was about Frances Naylor, a legless girl who briefly developed, at the age of 13, the ability to levitate.  She floated about her home in Evanston, Illinois, and was photographed by her father, an amateur photographer.  Her mother saw the ability as a sinister manifestation and forbade her from levitating in public.  The first exhibition of the work took place in the house where the images were made.  The public could, at once, see the photographs and the exact spot where they had occurred.  As in the previous installation, this created an immersive environment that brought the audience into the story.  Again the accompanying text treated the story as fact and allowed the audience to suspend disbelief.  This further immersed them in the story.

The following tale came about through historical research.  My gallery in Chicago, Printworks, is housed in a rehabbed warehouse building that was once home to the National Candy Company.  National was even owned by Vincent Price Sr., father of the well-known actor (no kidding!).  So, I decided to tell the story of something that could have happened at the factory.  In this case, the story was that of Anna Sula, a young orphan worker who was found murdered at the factory.  Photographs later surfaced showing that Anna had telekinetic powers and participated in meetings of a private circle at the factory.  Could this have something to do with her brutal murder?  I leave it for the viewer to decide.

In addition to the elaborate story and the installation, I also immerse the viewer in the imagery by using stereo photography (3D).  My work is primarily exhibited in 2D form, but I have the ability to display it in 3D as well.  Sometimes this is in the form of View-Master reels and viewers, sometimes as antique-style stereo cards, and sometimes as anaglyph prints that require the paper red/cyan glasses.  This is the form they are currently in at "Digital Darkroom" at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

All of my major narrative works can be enjoyed at the Annenberg Space as narrated 3D slide shows.  There is a monitor booth near my framed work with displays for shows, complete with music and narration.

I am currently at work on a new series which is in color and set contemporarily.  It involves a family (husband, wife, son, daughter) who live in an older house that has a ghost who looks in on their lives.  This show will debut at Printworks in October of this year.  And I hope to show a few preview images at my IRIS Nights lecture at Annenberg on Thursday, February 16th.

Christopher Schneberger is a traditionalist and an iconoclast. He has created photographic series of both infrared and mural-sized photographs. His work often weaves a narrative tale incorporating supernatural elements. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Bringing Attention To Important Topics Through The Use Of Humor

by Pierre Beteille I am proud to say that the Annenberg Space for Photography's "Digital Darkroom" is my very first photography exhibition. I was excited to be given the opportunity to go to the show's public opening and witness, for the first time, people react (if they reacted at all!) to my images in a public setting. I take my photographs in my apartment in France!!

by Pierre Beteille I am proud to say that the Annenberg Space for Photography's "Digital Darkroom" is my very first photography exhibition. I was excited to be given the opportunity to go to the show's public opening and witness, for the first time, people react (if they reacted at all!) to my images in a public setting. I take my photographs in my apartment in France. I mostly shoot self-portraits and work alone, without an assistant. As a result, I have no direct feedback on my work. Of course, I get comments and messages from people on the Internet, but they inevitably come only from those who are receptive to my work. Coming to Los Angeles for "Digital Darkroom" was really my first opportunity to see people's instinctive reactions - either good or bad - in person. While it may seem rather childish and narcissistic satisfaction, to see people smile and react with such pleasure to my photos brought me an incredible sense of fulfillment. My work sometimes deals with serious issues that are important to me but I try to juxtapose the more solemn subjects with humor. For example, my latest photos focus on the speculation on the cereal markets and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. Glamorous themes, aren't they? My goal is to make people think about these important topics without boring them or putting them off, and the only way I can accomplish this is through the use of humor or satire. Humor can sometimes be very specific to different cultures, and I was not sure that it would be perceived in the same way from one continent to another. This is why one of my fears was to see people remain indifferent to my pictures. On the day of the "Digital Darkroom" public opening, a young girl in a wheelchair visiting the Photography Space came to me and with a great big smile said to me, about my photographs, "Thank you; you made me laugh." Even if I am a big boy, I must confess that I was very moved and that it almost brought tears to my eyes. This single sentence is the most beautiful reward and the best encouragement that I could receive for my work. Thank you all for your smiles! Pierre Beteille is a self-taught talent in Paris who has an unbridled humor and wit. He takes pride in never having read a book, watched a tutorial or taken a class on photo manipulation. His digital creations are highly original, each image functioning as both a punchline and an act of rebellion. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

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.

Claudia Kunin On Her Debut At The Photography Space

by Claudia Kunin

I first visited the Annenberg Space for Photography during it's grand nighttime gala opening in March, 2009 and was truly wowed by its dedication to the exhibition of digital photography. Here was this eye-shaped gallery with gigantic digital displays in a darkened atmosphere. It was the first time I had ever seen a space like it. In fact, I don't think there is another like it in the world! For me, a dream was set in motion that night: I wanted to show my work in the Photography Space.

I didn't know how I would go about doing it.....as it seems that promoting one's own work is often times fruitless. It was in April of 2010 that I met Pat Lanza, the passionate genius, behind-the-scenes curator at the Annenberg Space for Photography, and she told me that my work would be perfect for an upcoming show she was putting together called "Digital Darkroom." Huzzah!

Now here I am, part of a fabulous group of 17 talented artists lighting up the walls at the Photography Space. Because I knew I was going to be part of the show, it inspired me to push myself further, beyond the technological boundaries I had previously been working in. I put my nose to the grindstone, learning how to animate my pieces so they could be projected at the Photography Space. I'm proud to say that my work will indeed be shown in that mysterious eye-shaped room - 3D animations and all. I am so very excited to have a long term goal come to fruition. Just another example of how the impossible can be made possible!

Claudia Kunin worked for years as a commercial photographer before experiencing a transformational moment and devoting her life to fine art photography. Her 3D photography is dedicated to exploring the past, making connections and expressing the inexpressible. See her work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Ted Grudowski: "Go Into a World that Doesn't Exist Anywhere Else"

By now many of you have seen Ted Grudowski's incredible 3D photography in "Digital Darkroom." His exhibited work includes images that feature Bruce Springstreen and U2's The Edge. Watch this short video (it's less than 2 minutes) and learn more about how Grudowski goes about creating his photographs. Also, don't forget that you can look through all of the 3D images in the print show here.

Digital Darkroom Hands-On Workshop

The Annenberg Space for Photography recently hosted students from local colleges and art schools enrolled in photography classes for a "Digital Darkroom" special, hands-on workshop with Bonny Pierce Lhotka and Russell Brown.

Bonny taught the attendees how to print the photos on treated aluminum plates to create a vintage tintype look.

While Russell gave an introduction to using mobile software apps with lots of opportunity for creative expression and, as you can see, included various props, costumes and various backgrounds.

Bonny taught the "cooking" of aluminum plates to create antique surfaces that look decades old.

After distressing, washing and cooking the plates, participants will compose and alter both the plate and the image that has been printed on a transfer film. Bonny will show how to easily transfer your print to the aged plate resulting in a new vintage tintype look. Check out the great results!

Coming back to Russell's portion, shared tips and techniques for enhancing the photos taken by the students and also explained how to achieve a classic look and feel as well as how to prepare the final image for printing.

It was a unique learning experience for everyone involved. Looks like no only did everyone have fun but they produced some impressive work!

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

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