The Creators Project: What got you started taking these large-format stereoscopic pictures, were you frustrated by the limits of such kinetic stuff getting stuck represented in 2 dimensions?
Sebastian Denz: The special thing about large formats is the incredible definition. This high quality is crucial because many people see 3D photography as some kind of funny gimmick. I wanted to show that it can be art as well. A lot of people say it looks super realistic and a lot of people say it looks totally artificial, which basically means it looks so realistic that it’s on the verge of looking artificial, and therefore it works like an authentic hyper reality.
We like the way hyper reality sounds, but if we really think about it, we have no idea what it actually means.
We live in a more and more virtual world. There’s some kind of software blinking on any cell phone’s display, and I spend most of my lifetime behind my computer. My work is about skateboarding too, but I’m mostly using it to place an implicit emphasis on the relationship between virtual and real worlds. I believe these worlds mix more and more as we move into the future. I call my creations post-virtual spaces because they exist after the virtual, beyond it. These places that you get to viscerally enter through the pages of my books are hybrids to me that are neither artificial nor natural, but both simultaneously.
And your camera is the machine that transports us into these hybrid worlds. It looks like a piece of art itself, like something from a steampunk art show. Can you tell us a little about its guts?
Most of this camera could have been built 150 years ago because that’s how long the technology of stereoscopic photography has been around. This is merely the modern side of it. I look through the lens of my camera and see the future through it. The future will be built by taking the best from old technologies and combining them with new ones. My laptop has a 3-D display that allows you to see stereoscopic images, that means you can visualize three-dimensional images without glasses.
The images in your book all have a lyrical, expansive quality, though they are shot over many locations. Was this something you were going for, or an unexpected result of the large format camera?
There’s two kinds of pictures in there, on the one hand you have the tricks and then on the other hand the portraits. All the photos are laid out in a way that revolves around the person in the exact center of the frame. I took both kinds of each skater, but they don’t necessarily appear together throughout the book. I didn’t care that much about showing the most spectacular skate trick, but focused on finding rooms and locations that are intriguing beyond the tricks. I conceptualized the photos in a way so they work as both 2- and 3-dimensional images. If you put on the 3-D glasses the space opens up, and you get pulled in to it.
What drew you to skateboarding as a topic?
There’s a lot of creativity within skateboarding. The skaters conquer an architectural space and infuse it with energy. The way skateboarders transform any environment into an emotionally charged space is what I find super intriguing. Skateboarding was the path that led me to design and eventually photography. The subversive character of skateboarding is deeply rooted inside me, and I try to include it in my all of my artwork.
Do you have any future projects you want to talk about?
I have lots of ideas and projects, and I’ll definitely keep pursuing stereoscopic photography. I’ll also stick to the large formats and possibly also go for moving images, as in filming videos. I’m pretty much done with skateboarding though. I’m currently constructing a new camera with my friend Dr. Gilde, that’s like 80 percent completed by now. It’ll be another analogue camera for large formats that will allow landscape frames as well. For content, I intend to further explore the concept of space in all its different dimensions. It’s not only about the architectural concept of spaces, but also the emotional concept and the experiences involved.
How do you imagine the technology of tomorrow?
We already inhabit countless virtual worlds in our daily lives today. The virtual worlds and the real world will merge more and more, which will bring on transfer processes and what I like to call post virtual space. There’s an incredibly strong blending which results in a kind of permanent hallucination, where you don’t know any more what’s real and what’s not. I’m not judging that limbo between fantasy and reality, and I don’t think it’s bad at all. I look forward to living in it.