Immersion -- Fish-Eye Lens

    On this page you will find low-resolution, medium-size thumb-nails of black and white 35 mm film photographs using a fish-eye lens, circa 1970. Camera was a 35mm Asahi Pentax Spotmatic. Film was Panatomic X. Printed on Kodak Polycontrast N paper circa 1972 and then scanned with Epson V700 Perfection photo scanner 40 years later for conversion to digital images.

    A fish-eye lens allows exploration of perspectives that are very close to the field of vision of the human eye. It gives viewers the opportunity to feel immersed in the scene and drawn entirely into another world.

    Click here or on the photograph to the right to view a larger image of "Affinity."


        Watts Towers (The Towers of Simon Rodia).

    The photographs below allow you to immerse yourself in Watts Towers in Watts, Los Angeles, California. As stated at the California State Parks website: "Watts Towers is a complex set of 17 separate sculptural pieces built on a residential lot in the community of Watts.

    The sculptures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar, and embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile and glass. Two of the towers rise to a height of nearly 100 feet. Using simple hand tools and cast off materials (broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and ceramic tile) Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia spent 30 years (1921 to 1955) building a tribute to his adopted country and a monument to the spirit of individuals who make their dreams tangible.

    Even California State Parks gets it -- "a monument to the spirit of individuals who make their dreams tangible." Not very poetic but good.

    I would have said "a monument to the spirit of aspirations and hope, and to individuals who pursue their dreams and rise above their circumstances." Of course, that is no easy task. And, I am sure you could ask just about anyone in Watts just how hard that can be.

    When Simon Rodia was asked why he built the towers his answer was, simply, "I had in mind to do something big and I did it."

    Top: Aspirations by Ron Sterling, 1972. "Transcending the web of discrimination and disrespect and the consequences of legacies of slavery and servitude."

    Middle: The Ankh Within by Ron Sterling, 1972. Commentary - "I am sure Simon Rodia had no idea that the support and connecting rods between two of the tall towers were formed in the shape of an 'ankh.' The Ankh is a symbol that is also known as breath of life, the key of the Nile or crux ansata (Latin meaning "cross with a handle"). It is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character that meant "life." It is often interpreted to mean eternal life.

    Egyptian gods were often portrayed carrying it by its loop, or bearing one in each hand, arms crossed over their chest. The ankh appears in hand or in proximity of almost every deity in the Egyptian pantheon (including Pharaohs). It is also widely used as a symbol of early religious pluralism: all sects believed in a common story of eternal life, and this is the literal meaning of the symbol. The New Age mysticism movement in the 1960s utilized the Ankh to symbolize the same tolerance of diversity of belief and common ethics as it did in Ancient Egypt."

    Bottom: Ascension by Ron Sterling, 1972. "There is more than one way to take flight or transcend your surroundings."

        Original Los Angeles County Museum of Art Entrance (below).

    The above fish eye photograph takes you right into the midst of an intersection of forces.

    A good friend of mine who was attending Otis Art Institute in LA in 1966 and I went on a 12 hour candid photography adventure through the MacArthur Park neighborhood and ending up at La Cienega Park, west of LACMA.

    It was as one of those classic, clear-sky, 70-degree days in LA. The city was vibrating with weekend warriors skateboarding, skating, jogging, cycling, and filling up the parks with laughter and sports. Samoans slamming some volleyball and some older folks taking on a team of soccer ball youngsters. The rules for one soccer game going on there included "you have to talk in Italian."

    Just after dusk, we hung out at the original entrance fountain to LACMA (1965) and I shot several black and white 35 mm film fish eye photographs. At night, with the lights emphazing the movement of the metal and the metal reflecting the movement of the water, the scene made a statement about the intersection and interaction of forces that was breath-taking. I have never viewed that piece in daylight, so I can't say that it would have had the same effect in a different light. I recently discovered my old files that contained this print, which I scanned. I still have the original 35 mm negatives, stored undamaged in plastic protective sleeves.

    I found information about the sculpture's history mostly told in an April 2015 article by Christopher Knight, the Arts Critic at the LA Times. I learned it had been replaced, and then later sold to the private Daimler Art Collection in 1989. It is displayed outside on the campus of Daimler's factory near Stuttgart. The daytime, more or less clinical photograph of it posted at Daimler's Art Collection website does not convey the kind of power that it revealed to my friend and I that night in 1966. Even LACMA's archives contain no photograph as revealing of the power of Kricke's piece as does this one.

    It is more than a little unsettling to learn that the LACMA board would have such a disrespect for the history of the original entrance to the museum to not have figured out a way to creatively position that fountain piece and maybe a partial facade of the original gallery exterior wall. Without that, viewers will only get some 2-D inadequate representation of the artistic history and the feelings associated with that modern sensibility. No modern impact, no light on the old glamor to help understand the new wave.

        Thank You for Visiting!

               Best wishes! Ron Sterling

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    Updated August 1, 2023
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