Interview by Vanessa Quintero, ELAC Art History student and VPAM Public Relations Assistant
Christian Arias is one of the artists whose work is currently on view in New Voices: The 2016 Student Art Show, along with other student artists from East Los Angeles College. Arias experiments with past art forms, specifically early photographic technologies, and in New Voices Arias presents his stereoscope project, a device for creating a three-dimensional image by viewing different stereographic paired images. Bearing in mind stereographs were a popular photographic form before Christian was born, I asked him some questions regarding the medium’s history and his aesthetics as a photographer.
1: Tell us about the history of the stereoscope and what made you want to work on a stereoscope project?
The stereoscope or stereograph was invented by Charles Wheatstone, an English scientist and inventor from the Victorian Era. Stereographs can be created with two cameras side by side or a special camera with two lenses. The left side of the lens captures information that the right lens cannot see and vice versa. The photographs are mounted together to form a viewing card that can only be seen through a stereoscope viewer. The stereoscopic optics isolates each photograph that gives an illusion of a three-dimensional photograph.
I’ve always liked how View-Masters change a person’s environment just by looking through a lens. When I was introduced to the stereoscope by my Professor and mentor Mei Valenzuela, I realized that I could make my own photographs and impact viewers through my perspective. Mei gave me a Holmes viewer and a Stereo Realist camera to get me started.
2: Did you encounter any challenges while you were working on this project?
I came across a couple of challenges. First, I had to figure out how to use the camera, it’s a little more complicated than a regular camera because it has two lenses. Then I had to find a way to make my photographs and the stereoscope approachable and interesting to viewers, so I made the pedestal.
3: What themes do you like photographing for your stereographs?
I’ve only had the camera for less than a year, so I’m still trying to master the camera. So far I like to photograph still lifes and my neighborhood. I’m trying to better understand the science behind the stereoscope to transition into the next step of my stereographs.
4: What would you want the viewer to experience while using your stereoscope to view your stereographs?
I want to give the viewers the same feeling of traveling that I felt when I looked through View-Masters as a kid.
5: Do you feel that your environment, where you grew up had an influence on your photography aesthetics?
My photographic aesthetic is about questioning the norms and my neighborhood is filled with history of people questioning society and fighting for their rights. I think it had a big influence on me and I think you can see that in my work.