phantograms from nature by barry rothstein

by Grace Bonney

If anyone had walked into our office last week, they would have witnessed quite a sight. Max, Amy and I took turns wearing the geekiest 3D glasses while we stood over Barry Rothstein’s Phantograms from Nature book, oohing and aahing like crazy. I stumbled upon Rothstein’s book at Beautiful Dreamers in Brooklyn and ended up buying it on the spot, without hesitation. I’d never heard of a phantogram, but as soon as put on the 3D glasses and opened the first page, I squealed like a child. The image seemed to pop right off the page, and I stood in Beautiful Dreamers like a weirdo, laughing and running my hand through non-existent grasses on top of the page. A phantogram is a form of optical illusion that makes it appear as if the image on the page is levitating in three dimensions. Without 3D glasses, the 2D image appears distorted, but with glasses on, it comes to life and looks like a floating object above the page. I could not get enough of this book, especially because it celebrates the nature of the Western United States. Trees, lichen, grasses and much more are captured by Rothstein using the phantogram technique he describes (and teaches you to do!) online. I’ll probably never make my own, but this process is fascinating, and the results are nothing short of a time machine right back to your childhood. I felt like a little kid again wearing glasses and laughing hysterically every time I tried to touch a 3D image that wasn’t actually there. If you’re looking for a clever and unexpected gift for a friend, this would be a great choice. Click here to check out more at Barry’s site and here to order the book online from Beautiful Dreamers. xo, grace

Photographs by Maxwell Tielman

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