About Stereoscopic Photography
Stereoscopic photography came about in the late 1830s, simultaneous with the invention of photography itself. From 1860 to 1920, stereo views were immensely popular—essentially the home entertainment of the times. At a period when travel was extremely limited, the millions of stereo views sold during this period were a way for people to experience a deeper sense of a wide variety of places and activities. The power of the technology to convey a sense of place helped establish Yellowstone as the first national park, when a series of stereo views of the area were distributed to members of Congress in 1871.
Interest in stereography steadily waned in the 1920s and beyond, but experienced a brief upsurge in the early 1950s when the availability of commercial stereo cameras, coupled with the introduction of Kodachrome film, made it possible to create vivid amateur stereo photographs of everyday life. It was, in fact, my father’s stereo photographs of our family—along with the omnipresent View-Master photo disks, which, for many of us, comprised our first photographic collection – that formed my interest in stereoscopic images and their ability to convey spatial relationships and intensified perceptions of time and place. Viewing my childhood photos is like seeing my family displayed in dioramas at a natural history museum.
Unlike today's ubiquitous and easily disseminated digital imagery, stereoscopic images created on film cannot be viewed in the context of present space. The requirement of a viewing apparatus focuses the observer's entire field of view on the image itself so that the illusion of reality, depth and detail is particularly pronounced.
I design viewing devices that invite the public to engage physically with the image. Once the observer decides to look through the lenses, they are entirely focused on the image without periphery distractions. This focus of visual perception through the display and onto an image where depth and space are intensified is intended to create a more personal experience with the subject. By totally isolating the visual experience there is a sense of “push and pull” into another place and time. The use of a device allowing only one individual to view each image, helps create a transportational experience for the viewer, as they discover the image, intimately and with the immediacy of the transparency, in a completely private moment.
Although I use a variety of modern hand-built stereo cameras, I exclusively use film to produce the low-grain transparencies required for use in the lens-based viewing devices I have designed to exhibit my work.
Born in Syracuse NY in 1953, Bahouth practiced criminal and civil liberty law in Boston from 1978 to 1986, becoming Executive Director of Greenpeace USA (1988-1992) and Executive Director of the Ted Turner Foundation (1993-2001). Bahouth, like many innovators, was never officially trained in art. Despite not following the traditional art career track, however, Peter's work has been included in numerous galleries alongside such artists as Chuck Close, William Kentridge and Janet Cardiff.
His primary medium is stereoscopic three dimensional photography, a process that was developed in the 1830s. Bahouth designs his own viewers, often incorporating sculpture, sound, or signage, as an invitation to look – to observe the photograph outside the present context. Like looking through a hole in a fence, it is a peek behind the surface that requires the active choice and participation of the viewer. Looking into the viewer in this way also removes all other external visual information. This focus of visual perception through the display and onto an image where depth and space are intensified is intended to create a more personal experience with the subject. By totally isolating the visual experience as well, there is a sense of being projected into the image and into another place and time.