Ethel Davies on travelling the world and creating 3D photography

Meet Ethel, a 3D artist, printer and a life long PermaJet user. Her creative career spans from photographer to writer to podcaster and everything in between. Ethel creates stereographic, three-dimension still images, based on specially taken photographs. She says: “I often carry them a bit further, to create pictures that look more like paintings – but come to life when viewed with red-cyan glasses.”

Find out a little more about Ethel in our Q & A session…

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself?

A. Hey all, I’m Ethel. A photographer, writer, podcaster and 3Der, according to my LinkedIn profile. I grew up in Los Angeles, but came here as a student decades ago and found the English way of life really suited me – and I’ve been here ever since. Although I will probably never be British, I am a Londoner.

Finishing my studies, I got an editorial job in Fleet Street publishing but switched to picture research for a children’s publisher. My interest in photography being rekindled, I decided to pursue it in a more serious fashion. I enrolled in a four-year, part-time professional college level course that to my surprise, I completed. Even more amazing, I then managed to get a job working for a photographic agency.

The company sent me almost all over the world, but eventually, I decided to become a freelancer. I then worked for several companies, including Thomas Cook Publishing, for whom I photographed many books and even wrote a couple. I even produced a rather large book for Bradt Travel Guides: North Africa the Roman Coast.

Image of Ethel in her studio

Q. What kind of photography and artwork do you produce?

A. The stock library and commissioned photography businesses have changed since those early days and we professionals from the old days have begun to think more creatively. This new attitude coincided with my own independent travels.

One of these was a year-long solo motorhome journey across America. As it turned out, right before I took my first turn behind the steering wheel, a friend who worked in Hollywood effects introduced me to stereographic photography. He suggested I try it and, ta-dah! – I took to it extremely well. The entire country was documented in 3D (book: Across the USA).

I have continued to produce 3D images, moving from conventional stereography, where one looks at two images through a device, to anaglyphs, where the two pictures are coloured separately and overlapped. Then, looking through a pair of red-cyan viewers magically creates a three-dimensional effect.

Q. Tell us about your 3D technique and how and why you chose this?

A. The technique of shooting anaglyphs is not a secret, as it’s a known Victorian process that predates photography. As with stereography, two pictures of the same subject are made, (in my case, photographed), one more or less reproducing what the left eye sees and the other the right. The tricky part is how can one get each eye to see a different picture from a flat surface?

In this case, the effect is done with colour. One image has all the red removed and the other all the green and blue (easier with RGB in photoshop). Overlapping the images to become one, when viewed through glasses with the opposite colours (red-cyan) each eye sees a different picture. However, the brain puts them back together, reproducing the parallax that one sees in real life, therefore creating the 3D effect.

It’s important that the images are sharp and on a matt surface, as a shine can disrupt the sensation. PermaJet papers are great for these requirements.

Q. What inspires you?

A. Perhaps the biggest inspiration for me is the world itself. I remain curious to see how something will look as a 3D image and I continue to explore and shoot what I see… and I am constantly surprised!

Q. Tell us about your link with PermaJet and how long you’ve been using their paper

A. I began printing digitally even before I used a digital camera. I scanned my transparencies and produced them on an early printer. I started experimenting with papers and when I had an image I wanted to produce well, I discovered PermaJet. For a proposed exhibition, I contacted the company and they kindly supplied me with material. A very early thrill was when PermaJet printed a large version of one of my 3D images of Stonehenge and took it with them to Photokina!

Since then, PermaJet has been my choice for important images – and I even use the matt proofing for pictures that needn’t be quite so critical.

Q. Where can we buy your work?

A. I have set up three websites that offer audiences a chance to see (and buy) my work. Doublevision Publishing is a company that produces books of anaglyphs of different subjects, viewers of course included:

1) Across the USA a Roadtrip in three dimensions: an account of the USA with journal
2) Somewhere to Build a Dream on: idyllic locations in which to escape
3) The London Postcode Book in 3D: a illustrated guide to every postcode district in London
4) View Askew 3D Architecture 1 (Portrait), some of the most interesting buildings in 3D
5) View Askew Architecture 2 (Landscape), an architectural tour around the world via longitude

Doublevision Arts features 3D prints available in various sizes.

3dphotolibrary is a general archive of many of the round the world anaglyphs taken in my 3D career

Q. What’s in store for the future?

A. I still feel I’m on a mission to promote my method of shooting anaglyphs as a fine art medium and will continue to pursue its recognition via the above projects.

Incidentally, if you’d like to hear a bit more about my travels, including some of the trials and tribulations of taking pictures, you might like to listen to some of my podcasts, Ethel’s Travel Tales, available on Spotify and most other podcast sites!

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