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February 3, 2013

Life through a different lens

In the late 1960s, I purchased a fish-eye-lens attachment, which — according to my hippie vernacular at the time — was a “groovy” contraption to capture “far-out” disfigurements of the world around me.

In 1974, I used the lens to warp the monoliths and canyons of the Big Apple and subsequently self-published a limited-edition book for family members. Soon after this particular burst of creativity, the lens was relegated to the dark recesses of a drawer for three decades. A few years ago, when searching for some other photographic paraphernalia, it resurfaced, and I decided to once again allow light rays to be distorted by it.

So I screwed the odd convex relic onto the so-called “normal” lens of my 35 mm film (yes, good old film) camera, which I loaded with a black-and-white silver halide emulsion, and headed through the great outdoors. I looked for subjects that could be advantageously portrayed by the unique perspective the lens attachment afforded.

On some excursions, the only lens I took with me was the fish-eye, so I could concentrate on which vista would be the most receptive to this way of seeing. I searched for objects that were prominently displayed in the foreground — leaves, flowers, branches and automobile parts.

Some of the resulting fish-eye photos seem to have a surrealistic M.C. Escher-like view, with layering caused by shadows and/or foreground objects such as branches that cause the viewer to look twice.

Prospective patrons who see my work at art shows often ask how I achieve the effect, to which I jokingly reply, “This is based on the Colombian principle — that the Earth is round.”

The lens definitely does not lend itself to taking portraits — with noses appearing greatly accentuated — unless a caricature is what the artist is going for.

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