TERRY WILSON • stereo artist
2005 Phantogram Show

2005 Phantogram Show

San Jose Showing | SCSC Meeting | Downey Showing

by Terry Wilson

Andrew Woods contacted me in the summer of 2004 and asked if I could let them exhibit my Mars phantograms at the upcoming 2005 Electronic Imaging Symposium and Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference held in San Jose, CA, to tie in with the plenary presentation by Justin Maki, stereo imaging scientist from the Mars Rover team at JPL. At first, it was just going to be a small exhibit of my Mars images. Then it was going to include other phantograms of mine. Then we decided to include a few other phantogram makers. When Andrew later asked me if I could coordinate the show for him, I decided to go all out, attend the event myself, and make it a more comprehensive exhibit by adding important documents and books, handouts, and including all the phantogram makers I could find.

First I put out an email asking for submissions of not only images, but anything phantogram related. I got several responses, including Steve Hughes' generous offer to show his collection of geometry and drawing books. Achim Bahr mailed me prints and an animation from Germany. Then I got on the internet and did further research, uncovering a few new artists, and downloading images from some of the people on my query list. Now that I had the show pretty well outlined, I revisited my Mars series of 12 images. New images come from Mars every day, so I had hundreds of images to look through to catch up. I worked up a few new ones and refined my edge techniques, and suddenly the first series looked dowdy. So I remade some of them and retired others. The final series of 35 is all new; even the old ones are new.

The exhibition space at the symposium was generous, and allowed me ten 6-foot tables stretched along one wall. The Mars images took up four in the middle, flanked by three on either side for everything else.

Leading into the exhibit were some of the non-Mars images followed by the table I was standing behind to answer questions. Included in this first section of images was a print from Steve Hughes that contained four actual objects in the scene. Unlike the side by side object/phantogram setups he showed at the last NSA convention, this one had the objects right on the print. I positioned it on the second table so people would already have glasses on by the time they got to it. It was a lot of fun watching people reach out, as they are prone to do to all the prints, and discover the trick.

The third table had handouts with URLs for links to the artists and other information, copies of the three patents related to phantograms, and the books that Steve Hughes lent to the exhibit. In a more phantogram-centric crowd, the books would have been a bigger attraction, but they only got a little attention at this show. I however, spent a lot of time fascinated by the Pearce geometry book, which I had only heard about, but never seen. I also had on display a printout of Boris' Surprise stereoview (the one of him and the print in the studio), and Bruce Springsteen's Knot Impossible stereoview, with a cheap lorgnette for viewing. But most people, not being accustomed to viewing 3D, passed them over. I also had a modern re-creation of the historic Cylindre phantogram next to a print of the original, from a 1912 French geometry book. The original was created for red and green glasses, with green on the left, and faded so much it was even more difficult to see.

The Mars images stretched out for the next 4 tables. I included a raw image of one of the prints (just as I got it from NASA) to show why a phantogram is different. Phantograms 'work' partially because of a subtlety that people -- even we phantogram artists -- usually don't notice. And that subtlety is apparent with a comparison like this. Basically, in a phantogram, the stereo window is at the surface, so there is little deviation to adjust to. You look at the paper, and your eyes are already focused correctly. There is no wait time until it coalesces into a 3D image. After looking at only phantograms, the one 'normal' image was difficult even for me to immediately see. Maybe this is why I often hear "I never liked anaglyphs, but I like these!" In addition to this demonstration, I had one image printed three different sizes to show that they all had the same relative depth when viewed from the same distance. The depth only changes as you move closer or farther from the physical print. This demonstration was more for the phantogram-aware, and like the materials at the information table, was mostly lost on this crowd.

The rest of the images followed the Mars display, and at the end, three large format prints of cityscapes and a computer graphic, all by Steve Aubrey, lay on the floor along with a few 20 x 30-inch prints by Andrew Woods and myself. Across from the tables, Aubrey set up a laptop with a separate horizontal display showing an animated loop phantogram. Achim Bahr also provided a computer generated animated loop of a robot. Also at Steve's table, we saw his newest phantogram format, a sweep phantogram. This is a hybrid that is printed on a sheet and displayed by mounting it on vertical and horizontal surfaces, but curved at the corner, like a seamless photo backdrop. The phantogram is of course on the bottom surface, but a normal stereo image is on the vertical surface, with the curvature blending from one to the other. This creates a scene with the horizon intact. He had a mockup of a large mailer which folded flat, and opened up into a free-standing display.

The exhibit lasted for two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the thousand glasses provided did not last half that long -- on day two, we were asking people to return them at the end of the exhibit. Only a fraction of the overall attendees were stereo-savvy, so most of the visitors were caught completely off guard when they looked at the exhibit. The symposium is international in scope, and people from all over the globe visited. Even many of the stereo crowd had not seen phantograms before. Naturally, there were plenty of polite visitors who complimented me on the exhibit, even before I had a chance to say "Oh -- but you must now view it with these," as I handed them the anaglyph glasses.

Justin Maki, the imaging scientist from JPL who gave one of the keynote presentations (on the Mars Rovers), enjoyed the exhibit. I gave him two Mars prints, and he signed two others for my collection. (These make good companions to two images that the JPL Rover geologist, Matt Golumbek, signed for me a few months earlier when he gave a talk in New Jersey.) In addition, Maki picked out a pair of prints to put on display at the Jet Propulsion Lab. His talk that morning was quite interesting, full of details about the various cameras mounted on the Rovers.

I had invited anyone from the stereo community to visit the exhibit on Tuesday if they were in the area. Martha McCann, an advocate of modern 3D artists and a familiar face at the NSA conventions, visited the show. If anyone else came by, they did not introduce themselves. Anyone who passed on this opportunity missed a great retrospective, the scale of which will not be seen again (unless I'm invited back next year to mount a whole new phantogram exhibit). Several people from the stereo community were at the symposium anyway, and got to see it. But overall, I'd say we introduced the format mostly to new people.

The exhibit wrapped up on Wednesday, and on Thursday I flew down to the Los Angeles area to visit my family for a couple of days. As luck would have it, the Southern California Stereo Club holds their monthly meeting on the third Thursday, exactly the day I would be in town. My sister and I attended the meeting and laid out the exhibit for the members. It was a last minute thing for the club, but they had plenty of tables available, and everything worked out well. I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing friends I've made from the NSA conventions. In my area in New Jersey, there is no active stereo camera club, so it was a treat just to attend their regular meeting. Franklin Londin brought and set up an assemblage with stereo slide viewers built into it, and the slide competition was entertaining. I had a great time, and the meeting ran well past their usual quitting time.

As if this weren't enough, the next day, Friday, I had planned a private showing at my mother's house in Downey, CA. This served two purposes. One was to show this unusual collection, and the other was to plan a party to get some of my friends from Southern California to come see me. I had also invited Owen (Wes) Western, since he lives in San Diego, and Barry Rothstein, who lives in nearby Long Beach. Wes told me he probably wouldn't be able to make it because of his working hours and the long drive, but would see what he could do.

I laid out a somewhat abbreviated collection (due to space constraints), and we served food from the kitchen. Barry and his wife came, along with my friends and some of my mother's friends. Then as things were livening up, Owen Western appeared toting a large cylindrical case. There was space in the adjacent family room for him to unfurl two large format phantograms, one of Mt. Helix, and the other of his wife reclining on the floor offering up a glass of wine. The images added a wonderful bonus to the collection. Both Wes and Barry are friendly, outgoing people, and along with Betsy Rothstein, were a nice addition to the party.

On Saturday, we drove up to Ojai to visit my brother. Ojai is a small community in the foothills, not far from Santa Barbara, that attracts a lot of artists and other creative people. My brother knows the owner of an art supply store in town, so once again, I trotted out some of the images and had a little mini show in front of his shop. Later, a display in my brother's dining room for his family finally wrapped up the Traveling Phantogram Show of 2005.

The phantograms that we all contributed got a wide showing, and I had the pleasure of being the one to spread the good news. I also got to meet a lot of people, including the two patent holders, Steve Aubrey and Owen Western, with whom I had already established a dialog. Despite my grumblings about the patents, I respect, and am friends with, both of them. Steve and I had fun up in San Jose monitoring the exhibit together and answering questions, and Wes and I enjoyed meeting and comparing notes down south. I'd like to thank and acknowledge the people who had images in the exhibit: Achim Bahr, Owen Western, Boris Starosta, Steve Hughes, John Adlersparre, Steve Aubrey, Steve Boddy, Bruce Springsteen, Andrew Woods , Shab Levy, Barry Rothstein, Gilbert Detillieux, Takashi Sekitani, and David Burder; and a special thanks to Robert Chow, who helped man the exhibit in San Jose and took the pictures from that leg of the show.

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