PomzineRatKitschFramecritiqueProse 

 
 

 

Circular Peripheral photograph

 
 

Phoenix process

 
 

Phoenix process

 
 

Peripheral image

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Strip photography

 
 

Peripheral process

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Peripheral process

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Peripheral & Phoenix process

 
 

Circular Peripheral photograph

 
 
Although Hungarian by birth, I grew up in a small town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina during the period after WWII. It was there that just upon entering high school I was introduced to photography by a biology teacher who emphasized its application as a recording device for use along with a microscope.

Soon enough I owned a simple 127 size reflex camera. I made a darkroom in a closet at home and by combining a negative of a flashlight beam reflected off a wall with a real scene of the town square and contact printing the combination I began creating, much to the consternation of friends and relatives, unlikely scenes of flying saucers over the town square. Later that year, I bought a camera I thought more suitable to someone with "advanced" knowledge (it was an 828 Coronet Cub that looked like a Leica!).

In 1957 my family moved to the United States, to Boston. I had "graduated" to an Agfa Silette 35mm camera. I received an old folding camera from a family friend and decided to make an enlarger out of it. I had made improvised enlargers earlier using shoeboxes and similar nesting boxes but they were unwieldy and suffered from light leaks. I fitted a juice can over the back of the folding camera, put a lamp inside it, and mounted it on a support whose position could be adjusted on a square wooden vertical post.

My decision in 1961 to attend enter the Photographic Science program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was greatly influenced by the electronic flash work of MIT's Dr. Harold Edgerton. I visited his "Strobe Alley" and was impressed by the photographs and the man. I saw the connection between science and photography and it interested me. After completing my BFA, I went on to complete RIT's MFA program in Graphic Design. I have been with the Rochester Institute of Technology in one capacity or another ever since.

During my undergraduate years I began working as a photographic technician at an RIT lab supervised by Dr. Kenneth C.D. Hickman. Dr. Hickman was a wonderful man, full of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and generosity. He gave me interesting projects to work on and guided me in their successful completion. He encouraged me to publish and to present at professional society meetings and conferences. I have been doing that ever since!

While completing my last year of the BFA program, I encountered visiting instructor Eugene Tulchin (of Cooper Union). Unimpressed with my interest in sports photography, Tulchin threatened to expel me from the program unless I demonstrated some "creativity." I happened to see some photographs by George Silk in Life magazine, Olympic sports done with a "modified camera where the film moves past a slit, like in a photofinish camera." Experimenting with a Minolta camera I had modified, it wasn't long before I was able to almost duplicate Silk's images. Tulchin was so impressed by my "newly found creativity" that he became an enthusiastic supporter of my work. Some years later I did share the truth with him and we have been good friends ever since.

The photographs shown here are a result of my long-standing interest in this fairly specialized application of photography known generically as "strip" photography. There are several variations on the basic theme. What all of these have in common is that they move the film past a narrow slit located just in front of the film plane. Racetrack photofinish cameras use this method of photography to generate images that indisputably depict the order of finish of race participants; panoramic cameras capable of 360 degree horizontal coverage also accomplish this feat by "scanning the scene" through a narrow slit. Certain types of aerial mapping cameras, military ballistic cameras, and other cameras associated with unique applications, all use the same principle.

In the mid 1960's, I realized that one could apply "strip" cameras for peripheral photography. This made possible the depiction of an object's full outside surface.In peripheral photography the film in the camera is continually in motion past a narrow slit while the object in front rotates. In this way, the slit effectively "scans" the periphery of an object over time. This technique had already been extensively applied by archeological photography specialists since the late 1890's for the reproduction of designs drawn on ancient Greek vases and Mayan pottery. In the automotive industry it has been employed to record the wear patterns of pistons.

As part of my MFA thesis I produced a small body of work based primarily on peripheral portraits. While all my early work was done with 35 mm materials, later on I developed a camera capable of using Polaroid "pack" type film and used it to conduct workshops and demonstrations at lectures and conferences nationwide. After being spun around on a small turntable and, hopefully, learning what peripheral photography was all about (in less than 5 minutes!) my subjects would see their unique and distorted portraits, usually laugh or smile at the unusual photograph and disappear with it. After taking thousands of these photographs I was left with nothing to show for it.

I refined a procedure I dubbed the "Phoenix" process which allowed me to "rescue" for my records the opaque and normally unusable paper negatives created in the Polaroid process. This method consisted of rephotographing the Polaroid Type 667 paper negative as soon as possible with Polaroid's Polagraph 35mm film. Polagraph film, being transparent and high contrast, partially corrects for the fact that the original paper negative is opaque and low contrast. The fact that the film produces a positive image means that the original's tonal distribution is maintained so that the Polagraph copy can function as a negative, be placed in a standard enlarger and used to produce normal paper enlargements. As it is exposed to light, the paper negative exhibits some changes, the primary one a reversal of tonality called the "Sabattier" effect, sometimes also referred to as solarization.

If you want to read more about the methods used in creating these images, several articles about the peripheral technique as well as the Phoenix process are available off my website. You can also see the general list of Articles. You'll find my home page at: http://www.rit.edu/~andpph.
                      — Andrew Davidhazy


 
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