If Weegee’s camera turns on you, you may find a familiar-seeming monster in this magazine.
Mirror maze images are tame compared to these weird photo wonders.
PHOTOGRAPHIC distortion has interested me for a long time. It gives me an opportunity to exercise creativeness and interpretation as opposed to photographic reporting and documentation. [That is an amazing sentence.] It makes my camera a personal instrument since the pictures I can take by various processes are far more than a mere representation of a physical scene.
There are many types of distortion possible, ranging from my secret “Elastic Lens” to the mechanical methods used in connection with the enlarging process. I make use of almost all of them. In this series however I am limiting myself to a discussion of four main types of work: the Elastic Lens; the Kaleidoscope; the split image, and the Periscope.
The Elastic Lens is the most versatile of distortion units. It is a secret lens and while I cannot at this time tell how it is made I can speak of some of its properties and uses. The lens is capable of attachment to either any camera or any enlarger with a removable lens. It is substituted for that lens. It can also be used as an attachment…
over the lens of a television camera. By adjustment it is capable of either distorting or wiping any segment of a negative while leaving the rest of the negative in perfect focus. It is adaptable to color film and can be used either -for motion picture or still photography. Thus in movies or television it is possible to follow a group of people down the street and to suddenly give one of the people four legs and two heads while leaving the others in the group perfect. [Why would you want to do that?] In still photography I can for example break up a person into segments and scatter the pieces over the negative in a pleasing pattern. Or I can distort a single feature of a person leaving the rest ofthe picture as is. For example I can give the person four eyes or three arms or two, three or four handbags.
The other methods are not secret and I will describe them in detail. The Kaleidoscope can also be used on either camera or enlarger. The tube consists of either metal or cardboard about two inches wide and about eight inches long. Two mirrors of the same size are fitted into the tube in a V shape. It is important that the mirrors be FRONT SURFACE MIRRORS rather than the normal rear surfaced. The rear surfaced jobs give off ghosts that spoil the photograph. The tube is then placed over the camera lens and a series of shots taken. Before each shot, rotate the kaleidescope to get a different composition. To operate…
No sailor would dally long with this mermaid. Neither the settings nor the Bikini add allure.
in an enlarger, place the kaleidoscope inside the enlarger on top of the enlarging lens. Focus the usual way. By rotating the negative carrier you will get the kaleidoscope effect you want. Be sure however that both ends of the tube are taped so as not to injure either the negative or the enlarging lens. The result of using the kaleidoscope is equivalent to the pictures of a children’s toy scope. The difference is that in the toy only colored beads or sand is used, but in photography real objects placed in pleasing and interesting patterns.
The split image is a purely mechanical effect obtained in the enlarger. The results, however more than justify its use an they are truly creative. The setup is as follows I use the metal container of a ten-yard adhesive tape roll. This is about two inches wide. A mirror is mounted at right angles to the diameter of the case. Its height; should equal the focal length of the enlarg…
ing lens. Thus for the average five-inch lens the mirror should be five inches high; for a three-inch lens a three-inch mirror, etc. The carrier is mounted inside the bellows over the enlarging lens. By moving the negative carrier an infinite variety of distortions are created. In every case a double image is formed but by changing the line of the negative the image may be doubled at any point in the photographic print. While not as versatile as the elastic lens since every portion reflected in the mirror will be doubled, and every portion unreflected will be omitted (the elastic lens can distort one piece out of the whole only) it is quick, easy and can come up with surprising variations. For distorting single objects, of course, it can do a wonderful job. People can be made to move in two directions simultaneously. Heads and bodies can be created that have no torsos, or torsos that have no extremities. Experimentation with this method of distortion can give the photographer a lot of fun and wide versatility in imaginative symbolism. [imaginative symbolism?!?!] I use it a lot in connection with my old news negatives. [my old news negatives!?!?]
The Periscope is the last method which I will discuss. My idea was this. Everyone knows what the eye sees and any camera can record what the lens sees. But there is a third part to any photograph, that is the flash holder. I wanted to know what the holder saw. After all it contributed to the photograph, it should certainly be given an opportunity to express its focus. The setup was simple. I placed a periscope over my lens and ran it behind the flashbulb through the holder. I realized that it would be impossible to photograph while the bulb was exploding since the flash would wipe out all traces of picture. Therefore I had the synchronization reset so that the shutter would click AFTER the bulb, rather than with it. True I would get less light but that could be compensated for. I chose to shoot my subjects therefore in well-lighted places and contented myself with shooting a twenty-fifth after the bulb (a number 5). The results were pretty good. The only problem was the reflections from the curved surface of the holder that leaked around the edges. These I masked out in printing. The bulb came out in fine relief and the subject came through the bulb sharply. It is wise in using this trick to make use only of persons used to being photographed with flash.
One thing more. I have been asked by many friends to give at least a hint about the Elastic Lens. I will say this. The construction, while not identical, is at least similar in principle to the range finder. That is, a series of lenses can be made to move in joint focus over the subject bring any one portion into the range of the distorting element. Any portion of the picture not covered by the entire series of lenses is not under distortion. Thus the focus of distortion can be either spread or limited as lens series is moved in scope.
With Weegee’s help, a magician can emerge from a locked trunk in a different guise.