Rob Munday passed a London photography gallery in 1981. A glint of light caught his eye. Inside the gallery, he saw one of the first true holograms ever made. “I was immediately smitten,” says Rob, “realising that holography was the perfect blend of science and art, I knew from that moment that I would spend the rest of my life making holograms.”
Rob graduated with BA (Hons) in scientific and technical graphics in 1983 and took a job with holography pioneers and artists Edwina Orr and David Traynor, at one of the UK’s first-ever hologram studios. He helped establish the Holography Department of the Royal College of Art, which was the first of its kind in the world, before leaving to concentrate on creating his own holographic studio.
Since then, he has become widely recognised as the world’s leading holographic artist, making the space between art and science his own. Munday’s subjects have included everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Liam Gallagher. In 2003, he co-created the first official holographic portrait of the Queen. A decade later, in another first, he made a 24-carat gold holographic portrait miniature – inventing a brand new portrait medium in the process.
A hologram, Munday says, has lately come to mean almost any kind of 3D image, so he has started using the term ‘true hologram’. This describes a photograph of a light field, or interference pattern, rather than an image formed by a lens, which, when properly lit, results in a 3D image which can be seen by the naked eye. A photograph can only capture a limited amount of information, but true holography can “record and reproduce all the properties of the light emanating from the real world.” Here, we find out more about this unique medium from the master himself...
“I have a permanent studio at my house in South West France, both to shoot true holograms and lenticular images (another printed image with an illusion of 3D), and an office at the fabulous Twickenham Film Studios in London. When I conduct high-profile shoots in London or elsewhere, such as the recent shoot of Angelina Jolie in Hollywood, I hire a convenient studio and move my dedicated equipment and cameras to it. By comparison, when in France, I have the luxury of shooting at my leisure. The flowers for my new series were both grown and shot at my home in France. Life seems too short for a routine and there’s simply far too much to do and to achieve. I’m 59 now, but feel that I’ve only just begun.”
“Lenticular images are made using a parallax image sequence. In other words, a sequence of photographs is taken from slightly different points of view around the subject or scene, to later be fed into a computer and made into an image that can be read as a 3D photograph. The initial step is achieved in a number of ways, but my preference is to move a camera under computer control along a linear rail, taking a picture every 10mm or so, with the camera rotating so it keeps pointing towards the centre of the subject.”
“In 2003, I designed and built the VIP system (Video Images with Parallax) specifically to record a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen. A conventional camera sits upon a rotary stage, which is itself placed on top of a two-metre-long motorised linear rail. This enables the camera to be translated smoothly at high speed and with extreme accuracy under computer control.”
“The system currently works with any Canon DSLR, but my current camera of choice is the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II. At 16fps, the 1DX Mark II enables a sequence of 50 RAW and jpeg images to be shot in just over three seconds. This is particularly important for portraits. As soon as the image sequence has been shot, it is automatically downloaded to a computer hard drive and a 3D image is presented on a large format 3D TV for viewing.”
“Post-production includes retouching and, using special custom software, correction of the various distortions inherent in parallax image sequences. Once the sequence is processed the images are combined or interlaced, again using special software, to create one single image, which is printed. The resulting print is then laminated in register to the back of a matching lenticular lens to provide the finished 3D image. There are many websites that describe this process in far more detail than I can do here, but the technique is not difficult to master and great results can be achieved.”
“The process of creating 3D images – light sculptures, as I prefer to call them – is fundamentally different from 2D photography even though, as in the case of lenticular imaging, photography is an integral part of the process. It is far less immediate and requires much greater planning. Certain parameters are fixed, such as the distance of the camera from the subject and thus the focal length of the lens used. This can sometimes limit the types of images shot and the medium used. Lenticular imaging or true holography, on the other hand, dictates the amount of sharp depth it’s possible to display. 3D imaging of this kind has more in common with sculpture than photography. And, as with traditional sculpture, you must first carefully consider the dimensionality of the subject.”
“At this point, and despite so far speaking about true holography, I have to say that I have not used true holography for most of my more recent work, including my new flower series. Instead, I have used the latest lenticular imaging techniques. True holography is a highly complex and expensive process and, despite its fundamental ability to reproduce optical reality, it can be quite limited in other ways. Many practitioners of true holography have therefore, over recent years, gravitated towards lenticular imaging. Being a stereo-photographic process, it is far simpler and cheaper. While lenticular images cannot reproduce reality as effectively as true holograms, they are nonetheless very convincing if made correctly.”
“By far the simplest way is to make lenticular images. Lenticular lenses can be purchased from a variety of companies. A sequence of images can be shot with a simple turntable, which is equivalent to moving a camera around a subject. Simply place a camera on a tripod and rotate the subject, taking a picture every degree or so.”
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