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Frances Naylor With Doll

Christopher Schneberger loves to walk the fine line between belief and incredulity. Each picture is a little hypnotic spell. Viewers read the panels once, then look at the photographs, then read again, then furrows their brows and look again. Each photograph is a study in how to concoct a history soufflé.

Schneberger works hard to make sure that soufflé doesn’t fall. He adjusts contrast, lighting and tone in the photos to create an “old-lens quality,” as he calls it. He prints the photographs on paper that has a unique matte, with a watercolor quality that looks as if it might be seriously aged.

The genesis of these two series came when Schneberger got a job teaching at a college that still had wonderful, haunting buildings from the turn of the century. Lots of wood and brick. The sense that history lingered and spirits might be playing at the curtains.

When Schneberger applied 3-D technology to the Crosswell series, it gave the ghosts real volume. This mimicked techniques that were used in 19th-century stereographic cards, when 3-D ghost images were all the rage.

Creating photographic illusions is always difficult, but doubly so in 3-D. Each photo in the Levitation Series had to be shot twice, for example: once with the model, and once in the exact same spot without. That allowed Schneberger to show the wall that was behind Frances’s legs. But everything gets more complex in 3-D, because you have to have one image for the left eye and one for the right, and you must overlay them exactly.

To Schneberger, 3-D is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The goal is to create fabulous images. Because of what Hollywood has done with 3-D, the public has developed prejudices against the format. What’s important to Schneberger is that the images he’s creating not only work in 2-D, but get even better in 3-D. Otherwise, Schneberger asks, what’s the use in using 3-D at all?

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