Free (special glasses required)

Virginia, July or August 1862. A Conestoga wagon fords the Rappahannock and approaches the lines of the Union army, carrying slaves traveling in search of freedom. As they enter Timothy O’Sullivan’s visual field, he opens the twin shutters of his stereoscopic camera. On a cracked glass plate, its record of the moment survives. Click any image below to enlarge it.

 

 

In Photoshop I separate the two images and equalize their brightness and contrast.

 

 

 

Then I recombine them into an anaglyph.

 

 

After I have viewed my work product through specialized lenses

41twX5kGYmL

I appear to have consummated the illusion of a three-dimensional experience that Timothy O’Sullivan’s camera created a century and a half ago. Yet I haven’t been able to see in anything like the freedom that the moment of passage through the water demanded of me. There’s this to remember about specialized lenses:

oz10-08
To preserve the illusion of the Emerald City, Dorothy and Toto are fitted with emerald-colored glasses

if we can see the passage to freedom only with their aid, perhaps the moment when a camera opened onto freedom was (as the Penseroso says)

too bright
to hit the sense of human sight.

Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000117/PP/

 

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