Photography made its first crude appearance in 1826; and within 13 years the process had reached a level of magical impressiveness.
Imaginations were stoked, and grand schemes to make photography more immersive abounded - many involving multiphotography, the use of multiple related photographs.
The First Photograph, Joseph Niepce, 1826,
8 hour exposure on polished pewter coated with bitumen of Judea.
Three independent technological progressions have shaped the landscape of possibility for immersive photography:
1) Chemistry of photography: The key transition happened in 1884 when Eastman introduced photographic film - a flexible, stable and arbitrarily shaped photographic emulsion. Up until this point, glass, darkrooms and chemicals were required at the location and time of photography.
2) The late 19th century industrial / mechanical revolution: Complex, precision things, hitherto impossible or extremely expensive, became possible, and affordable. With the explosion of enabling technologies for complex machinery (e.g. machine tools, gears, bearings, electric motors), rapid development of cinematography cameras and projectors (left) ensued. Movies became practical by 1900, ubiquitous by 1920, and remain the dominant form of multiphotography.
3) The microelectronics revolution: Images can now be freed from physical media; be duplicated and manipulated without limit; be stored on a vast scale and recalled based on arbitrary criteria in milliseconds . We are only beginning to see the power of this revolution in systems like Google Streetview.
PHOTOGRAPHY TO MULTIPHOTOGRAPHY
Stereography, which uses 2 images to create depth, is perhaps the first example of multiphotography. It was introduced in 1838 when Charles Wheatstone invented this mirror stereoscope.
Niepce partnered with chemist, Louis Daguerre, who by 1838 had cut exposure time to 30 minutes and dramatically improved quality - the Daguerreotype.
Panorama, another early form of multiphotography. This one composed of 6 Daguerreotypes
Muybridge's 1872 multiphoto sequence, taken with a linear group of thread-triggered glass plate cameras, foreshadowed cinematography, which was to emerge 20 years later.
SIMPLIFIED TAXONOMY of PHOTOGRAPHY
The table below attempts to broadly classify types of mono photography (white background), and multiphotography (yellow background). The few examples noted in various categories are for clarification, and are no means comprehensive!
mass-produced cine projector, ~1920
NOTES ON THE TABLE...
a) Multicam vs Indexed Cam. To shoot a wider field of view than a lens is capable of, one could simply use multiple cameras simultaneously (multicam), or use a single camera repetitively (indexed cam). Multicam shots have the advantage of being cotemporal - all represent the same moment. Until the advent of tiny cameras, multicam had a major disadvantage in size and weight.
b) Stereo vs Mono. Mono is a single camera, whereas stereo is two cameras facing the same direction - like your eyes. Stereo recreates the way we normally see, and gives a sense of depth.
c) Inconsistencies. Apologies - the table's classification system is a simplification of a very complex story, and breaks down in some places. For example, does Sutter's special panoramic camera take one super wide view or multiple views? Should Streetview be a new category: multilocation?
d) Multitime. The meaning of multitime here is that a camera (or cameras) takes multiple photos of the same subject, capturing changes in that subject over time.
approaching the limits of film...
Disney's Circarama (later called Circlevision 360) is probably the best known, and most effective, immersive photography system yet built. It captures with a 9 cine camera rig (above), and displays in a purpose-built round cinema (right). Google's Streetview (below right) is a digital age descendant.
Early dual slide projector, "magic lantern". Adaptable to anaglyph stereo.
hand crafted wet-plate cameras, mono and stereo, circa 1860
stereo photograph viewing methods
stereo cameras then and now
DIY multi-cam panoramic rig
special-cam panoramic: modern curved film plane camera
Stereo pairs via moving platform: aerial photogrametry (left). Viewer at right.
shot with special pano camera, late 19th c.
martian indexed-cam panorama
using monitor array for panoramic viewing
Cinerama projection scheme
carlovision panorama frame
"Spherical 360" video using DSLRs, 2011
(left) Mature mechanical cine camera, c. 1940, and (below) HD digital stereo cine camera, 2010
Throwable spherical panorama camera, using miniature cell phone cams (left), and stitched view from it (above).
GALLERY OF PHOTOGRAPHIC TECHNIQUES