Eames 3-D Photographs

Eames Office, Santa Monica

The difficulty with 3-D photography is the “multiplanar” effect, which breaks the picture down into successive planes, depriving it of unity (it can be seen here, deliberately, in a double self-portrait). The aim of the Eames series of 3-D photographs was to find ways to nullify the multiplanar effect, which is visible throughout the whole range of stereophotography.

This was the time of Hollywood’s interest, and the Eames’ photographs certainly do resemble Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in some superficial aspects, as well as Schwitters’ Merzbau (in one). A very subtle arrangement of foreground elements and recessive planes breaks down the flat-on-flat effect to activate the scope of possibilities open to 3-D photography.

Thus, in photographs of the Eames House (Case Study House #8), strong perspectives carry foreground to background, allowing delicate effects of reflection (varied by other elements) to form artificial compounds of perspective.

A still life on the breakfast table adds up so many ranges in close-up that no plane can be fixed as a compositional element.

The stunning “merzbau” picture regulates the foreground as a scrim that projects toward the viewer and also leads into the large studio area piled high with unfinished chairs in the background.

Pictures and studies of furniture include one of a slim sofa on chrome legs against wood paneling and a checkered floor beside a brass spittoon (balanced by a black homburg on the sofa). The subtle projection of the sofa, its chrome leg reflecting on the linoleum tile, and the delicate direct perspective combine to make it an exemplary study.

The essential problem raised by 3-D can be simply stated as the addition of another dimension, which creates new relationships among the elements of a composition, and must be reckoned accordingly.