Escaping Flatland


I am a photographer, I think of myself as a photographer, or, as people say today “I identify as a photographer.” But in the past few years I have departed the flatland of photography and begun making 3D sculptures.  It started with Ascent – 3D printed sculptures derived from a complicated process that derived from flatter than flat 2D photograms.

As a kid I was such a geek that I loved an old book called “Flatland.” It was supposed to be about some 2 dimensional characters that are visited by 3 dimensional characters who disrupt their world. It was actually an allegory about Victorian English society. But I loved the story, the illustrations and the concepts. A few years ago my flat photo world was disrupted by some 3D ideas.

Photograms evolve into sculptures:

It was a huge leap for me. When making photographs and photograms we only have to worry about the things being viewed from one side. With sculpture suddenly you start to think about the sides, the back, the top. How does it stand up? What kind of lighting does it need?

I started with 36 photograms of a plaster cast of my hand (hands seem to be my perpetual motif) taken at 10 degree intervals, digitized them, and then collaborated with a couple of geniuses at the Digital Atelier in Mercerville NJ – Jon Lash and John Rannou – who helped me convert those flat images with minimal detail into 3D models. Then using a 3D printer I was able to print the sculpture we had designed. Now I was off and running. This process was re-iterated numerous times until I had twenty 3D printed sculptures and hundreds of 14″x11″ silver-gelatin photograms.

Here is a video of the Ascent sculptures:

and you can read more about it in the gallery

Also off and running was media hype about 3D printing, all sorts of crazy things: “everyone will have one in their home,” or even more popular was the fantasy “Now everyone can 3D print a gun!” One thing I learned about 3D printing is that it is still for hobbyists and geeks who like to sit in front of a computer and mess with gadgets. It is a complicated business with a very steep learning curve even for this geek. But I love learning how to make things work and how to use bleeding edge technology. The real challenge was after I had gotten the Makerbot Replicator 2 running reliably (which included 3D printing new parts and modifying other parts) and suddenly I had to come up with some original ideas. How do I use this technology to communicate my ideas?

I will be writing more about using 3D printing for making sculpture and share some of the tricks I’ve learned. Stay tuned to this blog which still inhabits the 2D world of the internet.