The discovery of this technique
was the result of an accident. The chance projection of a
slide without having the screen in place resulted in a
portrait appearing partly on some fabric and partly on the
wallpaper. The curved fabric distorted the image and when the
picture was clearly focused the weave and texture of the
materials forming a type of screen became part of the
portrait. This result was sufficiently intriguing to leave the
projection as it was and to study the possibilities of this
If this effect could be
photographed, then one can photograph projected images on
other textures or even on other objects. This proved to be the
basic approach to gain full control of all images. Providing a
completely new way of superimposing and controlling every
aspect of photographs. Obviously if one can see it, one can
The projector however offers so
many more possibilities than the darkroom enlarger to create
pictures. Take any image on any film; it is just as easy to
project negatives or transparencies in colour or black and
white on to what ever is desired. Consider the potential when
projecting an image on to; fabrics (not always flat),
textures, or even on to other objects, then try bouncing the
projected photograph off a reflective surface and focus it on
to a screen, or have a look at what happens if a crystal is
placed near to the projector lens (behind the lens as well as
in front). Colour filters can be used, or parts of the image
can be masked (again compare the results obtained in front, as
against behind, the projector lens).
With more than one projector it
is possible to combine and superimpose with perfect control
more than one image. By projecting these images, one on top of
the other, and then masking away the overlapping parts of each
image, that are no longer required, a totally new picture can
These are the basic principles,
which with infinite variety are used to mould, form and relate
at will, all that has ever been photographed. It is in fact
the projector that provides all the magic; such is the
diversity that can be achieved with it. The older type of
projectors are often of more use than the modern automatic
ones, as it is then likely to be easier to gain access to the
space behind the lens. That facility is of great advantage
with these techniques - so one should look out for cheap
second hand ones!
The easiest way to begin is to experiment with the projected
image, try projecting a favourite portrait on to a selection
of textured surfaces, to be used as a screen. An enormous
variety of textures are possible to use, they do not always
need to be white, nor do they always need to be flat.
There is likely to be an
element of distortion, as it is not possible to have the
camera lens in exact alignment with the projector, but do not
worry about this yet, distortion can be useful as described
The use of a texture in
portrait work is particularly attractive, some of the beauty
and character found in painted portraits is lacking in
photographs. But the realism of the photograph becomes more
abstract simply by adding a texture and this can bring out
more expression or character than was evident before. This
does not mean that one is copying paintings as totally
different images are created from those ever painted, but that
this abstract quality that so enriches portraits, can also
apply to photographs.
The only way of avoiding distortion is to project square on to
the choice of screen and to rephotograph the image with a
plate camera. Then one can correct the angle of view with the
lens movements as used for architecture or perspective
However, more often than not,
distortion can be a very interesting effect if used carefully.
It can even be a very dramatic tool. Any image can easily be
elongated and stretched, or squashed and made wider. It just
depends on the angle of the projector, or the camera, to the
So far it has been shown how an image can be influenced by;
the addition of a texture, the effect of distortion, the use
of colour filtration, and the use of negatives or black and
Another fascinating way of
manipulating a projected image is to consider reflections.
principle involved is basically to rephotograph a projected
image as seen in a mirror, or bounced off a mirror. But
instead of using a mirror, there are many other options.
piece of acetate film as this material allows one to bend or
twist it, and so distort the image seen, by forming a flexible
There are two quite different
effects achievable even with the flexible mirror in a fixed
position and the same image projected. The first method is to
project the image on to a screen and to photograph the
reflection seen. The other is to project the image into the
flexible mirror, so that it bounces off it, on to the screen;
it is this new image that is then to be photographed.
There are many reflecting
surfaces that can be used. They do not always need to be
smooth, a highly polished old silver cigarette case, with a
machine finished pattern as an over all design, has been used
All photographs including those
techniques already described can be made into patterns rather
like a kaleidoscope by the use of mirrors. By positioning
mirrors at right angles to each other, with the image
projected on to a choice of screen in such a way, that the
reflections are repeated in the mirrors will then form a
pattern that can be photographed. The possibilities of scale
and size are no problem when projecting images, the biggest
building in the world can easily be projected between a couple
of small mirrors or on to a small object!
Spectacular patterns can be created by the use of crystals or
prisms. Apart from the special effect types available for use
on the camera, remember these can be used with the projector
too, it is also interesting to use old crystals designed to
form a chandelier.
Experiment with different
crystals placed in front of the projector lens, not always
square on, and see how the image scatters according to the
cut. The best results are often found to be with a fairly
small image within the transparency frame.
Quite a different pattern will
be formed, by moving the crystal behind the lens. Obviously as
these crystals are not optically perfect, the projected image
will lose some definition, but it can still be useful as a
Colour, Black and White or
Photography has the advantage of instantly reproducing an
image in a number of ways. Just by the selection of film the
image can be in black and white, colour or in either of these
choices it could also be in negative form. All these can be
Negatives can be unusually
beautiful in themselves and they should not just be regarded
as the means of obtaining a print. The choice of projected
images should not be restricted to transparencies but include
film in all its forms. Black and white images positives or
negatives can be projected and used. Colour can still then
easily be added to the black and white projected images by the
choice of screen, as well as by the introduction of colour
Many filters are available for the camera, and these can be
used with the projector too. But any bits of coloured
cellophane can also be used with the projector. There are
hundreds of colours easily available, as one only needs such
Even if they are not optically
of use with the camera, if used between the projector
condenser lens, and the film, they can influence the colour of
the projected image, without any optical problems. With care
it is also possible to change the colours of specific parts of
the projected image.
Make the Subject the Screen
It is not difficult to move on to other objects that can do
more than just act as a screen. These are items that become an
important part of the subject of the new photograph just as
essential as the projected image.
For example an original
portrait was projected on to a clamshell, amongst other
shells, and the contours of the shell influenced the projected
image. With careful masking using a diffused mask behind the
lens, allowed light to illuminate other parts of the scene
There are a number of other
objects that have been used in this way; a butterfly with a
river scene, an orchid, a ball of wool and a Siamese cat, a
coin, or a decaying holly leaf.
Even a highly reflective
surface can be used such as coins. The camera was directly in
front of the top coin, so that the projected image from the
projector was to the left of the camera. This meant that the
camera lens avoided the very bright reflection. Even the edges
of the pages of a book have been used.
It can be fascinating to take
your projector for a walk! Use an extension lead and just
project a selection of slides on to everything in sight.
focusing on to a wide range of objects, you will be able to
see what happens - expect to be surprised at some of the
possibilities that will no doubt come to light!
Masking is best achieved by using black card that is stiff
enough to stay upright; yet is easily cut into whatever shape
is required. It works well in front or behind the projector
lens. If masking in front of the lens it will quickly become
apparent that the nearer to the screen the mask is placed, the
sharper the shadow cast. The ideal is to always use a soft
edge shadow so the mask will not be very far forward of the
If it is possible to work
behind the lens, then the nearer to the film, the sharper the
shadows edge will be. It is then simple to perfectly blend
different images when working with more than one projector.
There have been times when
instead of masking with black card a transparent opaque
plastic has been preferred, this avoids a black shadow
forming, especially if the second projection is not adding
much in that particular area. Tracing paper has been effective
for this purpose normally placed behind the lens near to the
Before considering a second
projector, with just one, there are now an amazing amount of
possibilities that can be achieved with the projected image.
However with two projectors the additional special effects are
Double Exposure - Projector
The first option with the projector is to mount two pieces of
film, sandwiched in the same mount, and project the combined
images on to a screen. By focusing on one of the images, the
one in true focus will dominate and soften the other. Much
depends on the slide carrier used, but if there is room to
insert more than two mounts in to the carrier, then the more
space between the two films the greater the effect of one
image dominating the other. Should both images need to be in
focus then the closer they are to each other the better.
When sandwiching films in this
manner it is possible to insert one or the other upside down,
on its side, or the other way round. But there is little more
opportunity with this technique of controlling the end result,
so it is only a little bit better than double exposure as at
least one can see what the result looks like first.
This method involves using two projectors, but one has then an
exciting way of blending any two previously created pictures,
with far more control!
The technique is simple; just
project both images separately on to the same choice of
screen. However, these images can now be positioned whichever
way one might wish, one image could be much larger than the
other, or by masking parts of each image, a different blend of
the two pictures can be created. This is how any parts, of any
picture, can be blended together and all the time one can see
exactly what is to be photographed.
Ideally, two identical
projectors should be used, if possible with zoom lenses.
Should this prove impractical then variations in performance
of the second projector can be allowed for, by masking the
brighter of the two, just in front of the lens to achieve the
same brilliance from both projectors.
To enhance the quality of the
results one can achieve with this technique, there is an
advantage in obtaining a screen designed for rear projection.
Once the full potential of using two projectors is realised,
there will be a need for quite different types of images,
these are what are referred to as background shots, in the
advertising world. A completely new stock of photographs will
have to be taken, with blending potential in mind, no matter
how many pictures are available from the past.
Now each image can be simply
modified: The brightness of one image, as against the other,
can be controlled. By masking and shading just parts, of each
image, can be blended. Colours of certain areas can be altered
with filters. The position of each image, relative to each
other, can be adjusted. Or even the size, of one image as
against the other, can easily be altered. One of the images
could be distorted, reflected, or be changed in to a pattern
by the use of a crystal. The possibilities are quite
Best of all, the combined
images are there to be seen all the time, until the desired
result is formed. There is no need to rely on guesswork, as so
many other special effects seem to demand, with these methods
so no film really should ever be wasted.
With two projectors it becomes
possible to mix film effects together in a way not possible
before. It is so easy to blend negative images with
transparencies, in colour or black and white. Instead of
transparencies in both projectors, one of them could be
projecting a black and white negative or a colour negative
just as easily.
'Spirit of Spring' is a well-known award winning study that
won much acclaim for the author. This transparency of a
portrait was projected over; a second projected colour
negative image of a red tulip. A variation of this concept is
plate 59 (Poetic Portfolio) where another profile of Susan was
blended with a colour negative of the centre of a tulip. (See
this and other photos in the author’s 'Poetic Portfolio'
There are no reasons why more than two images should not be
projected all at once, providing the projectors are available.
There have been a number of
occasions when four projectors were in use together. However
three have been the most that have normally been used, with
the fourth one occasionally; simply projecting the author's
signature in to the scene.
There are some valuable advantages in having a rear projection
screen especially when owning more than one projector. The
first advantage that comes to mind, after the obvious one of
avoiding distortion, with at least one of the images, is the
opportunity to add a light coloured background when
photographing projected images on to other objects.
Should the rear projection
screen simply be used to provide a background scene, often
expected to be in a softer focus, an expensive screen is then
not needed. Even tracing paper will do!
Hoping that readers having reached this far will agree that
the possibilities described, offer photographers working in
colour so much more than simply recording reality. Trusting
readers will also agree that this form of photography really
justifies recognition in the art world, as it has certain
qualities that are quite unlike those of any other media.
This has been published with
the hope that photographers will not just create strange
pictures or gimmickry, but produce works of true artistic
The most satisfying time spent
is without doubt in the creation of the work. Frequently
regardless of the medium used, if an artist is truthful, the
end result obtained is not always exactly as initially
Often the author has decided on
a theme, or it could be just a thought about a pattern or
composition that exists in the mind, in an abstract way, as
yet unexpressed. Perhaps the last portrait taken inspires the
desire to do more with it. Whilst considering and projecting
certain images, to blend with such a portrait, something can
suddenly be seen that fires the imagination.
At other times an idea occurs
and a clearly defined image forms in the mind. However, whilst
trying to create this picture, it is not so unusual that one
strays across a certain amount of accidental inspiration.
can be the chance blending of two images in a way never
thought of before, that looks just too good to ignore! The
best thing to do then is to be prepared to change direction,
and pursue the new study, rather than the original concept.
The first attempted creation can always be tried again later
The excitement and pleasure one
feels when inspired in this way is hard to describe. So even
if one starts with just a vague concept, it is worth spending
some time experimenting. Think of it as being the stage where
the artist is selecting and mixing the paints on his palette,
still unsure of what he might paint, but just feeling the need
to make a start. Whilst thinking of the various possibilities,
surprising relationships can develop, that might well become
the basis of the final picture. It is only really by actually
making a start that you create the opportunity for something
exciting to happen.
retired) was an international top award winning
photographer that created new techniques of 'special
effects' without any darkroom or computer!
one of Britain's most original photographers."
"To Cohen, the
impossible in colour merely takes a little
longer..." Photography Year Book