What is Photostereosynthesis?


Louis and Auguste Lumiere are best known as inventors of the cinematographic projector and the accompanying film of a train [ L’Arrivee d’un train en gare de la Ciotat] which legend has it, was so astonishing to the audience, who had never seen a moving picture before, that they fled the auditorium in terror.

Louis Lumiere is also responsible for the process I present here – photostereosynthesis. Developed in the early 1900s, it involves taking a series of photographs at differing focal distances, and layering lightly printed glass plates to create a three dimensional image of the subject entombed in glass. Images were highly laborious and expensive to produce, and the process never succeeded commercially.

Some have described the technique as a precursor to holography, in the sense that they both produce three dimensional images, but the effect is very different.

Apparently, only twelve examples of Lumiere’s original photostereosynthesis images have survived. I have yet to
see one in the flesh. Still, that didn’t stop me from creating my own. I spent
much of 2003 perfecting the process using modern technologies and materials.

Of course, three dimensional things don’t really work too well when presented
on a two dimensional screen like the one you’re looking at. You can, however, get some sense of them from the images presented here.

An interesting side-effect of photographing people in this way, is that
the subject is required to pose motionless for about sixty seconds. As you can see from these examples, some people can sit stiller than others…

2 thoughts on “What is Photostereosynthesis?”

  1. This is so clever. What a wonderful way to display pictures. Very innovative yet retro. I would like to see a how-to on this similar to your Bushfinger how-to.

  2. Great! You have done it!
    Once I have seen one photostereosynthesis…. it was from the collection Bonnemaison I think. A man with a beard, about 18 x 24 cm. Seen from the front, it had something of a pulsed-laser-hologram. It made the feeling, that the person was alive and dead the same time. Here black and white, in the hologram case somewhere between red and green.
    How did you get that extremly shallow depth of field? And how did you make all the unsharp details dissappear?

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