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Given the relentless way that technology has pushed the frontiers of photography, it’s somewhat surprising that more contemporary photographers haven’t taken advantage of 3D technology the same way movie-makers have. This is especially surprising since 3D-style projections had a distinguished run in the 19th century, when stereographs—dual images that were slightly separated and seen through a special viewer—were extraordinarily popular and were harnessed by the era’s finest photographic practitioners.
Given the relative shortage of 3D photography today, Tim Otto Roth deserves credit for the work now on display at the Goethe-Institut’s D.C. outpost.
The artist has used 3D techniques to create a simple forest-in-winter scene, lit from within by blue and red lights, that comes close to enveloping the viewer when one wears inexpensive paper glasses. I say “close” because the viewer never really forgets that they are standing in the middle of a downtown D.C. conference room. Still, the artist’s inspiration to move photography from 2D to 3D is worth applauding.
The Goethe-Institute exhibition includes a separate series of the artist’s work that consists of botanical images that pay stylistic homage to Man Ray. Ray famously produced cameraless images of objects using darkroom light and photo-sensitive paper. While Man Ray’s works were black-and-white, Roth adds color—loads of it.
His 19×3 grid offers translucent, even ghost-like portrayals of plant matter, ranging in hue from magenta and lavender to yellow and green. Given the visual range, the wall of images comes off as surprisingly coherent. It also offers compelling views both from a distance and from close up; the technique gives almost equal billing to bits of detritus, and even stray insects have been caught in the glare of the artist’s light. Think of it as a stained-glass window for the modern age.
Through Jan. 13 at Goethe-Institut, 1990 K St. NW, Suite 03.