Photographic Sculpture: A Three Dimensional Inkjet Printed Interpretation

Inkjet printing for a fine art photography exhibitMark Lewis’ fine-art photography almost demands a three-dimensional interpretation. And, in a community known worldwide as a Mecca for sculpture – Loveland, Colo. – Lewis has yearned to find a way to interpret his work in three dimensions.

Inspired by the graphics used for the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art, which used gauzy, translucent fabric banners as a focal point for the exhibit, Lewis formed a concept for his own exhibition. Lewis called his LexJet account specialist, Michael Clementi, to brainstorm about inkjet printable materials he could use to bring his concept to life. Clementi recommended Polyvoile FR fabric and Lewis began testing the material on his Epson Stylus Pro 9880.

“I started to think about all the 3D things I’ve been working on, and had the idea that if I had a 3D space, I could put up my 2D artwork on the wall, like a gallery presentation, and then hang my new abstract figures on these banners and suspend them throughout the room, leaving areas for people to walk through. The idea was to create one large piece of art comprised of individual pieces that combine into one large art object that can be walked into,” explains Lewis.

Art exhibition with inkjet printed fabricLewis secured space at Aims Community College in nearby Greeley, Colo., and set up the display, mixing framed photo prints on the walls with Polyvoile banners hung throughout the space. The banners are abstract representations of Lewis’ Zero G series of nude studies.

Lewis explains, “The Zero G originals on the wall are a few years older and incorporate figure nudes with an illusion of weightlessness, so they look like they’re floating in air or water. The translucent Polyvoile banners that are 7 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, are extreme abstract figures that almost look like they’re made out of lightning and movement. The photographic process is very different for the abstract pieces than it was for the Zero G process.

“The Zero G series is an illusion based on light,” Lewis continues. “The second, abstract version is the same concept with much longer exposures of 6-8 seconds. I’m using my studio strobe flash, but I’m manually firing it. I have either camera or model movement, and sometimes I’ll use materials like painter’s plastic or sheer cloth material and a fan. As the material and model are moving then I’m popping up these individual flashes, and in between the flashes I have a bright hot light on. It sinks in low light exposure in between the strobes, and then the strobes capture those individual seconds within the six seconds. I’m getting a choppy freeze-frame effect. You end up with a big, blurry photo that looks like you can’t use it for anything. I take it into Lightroom, look at the figures inside that mess, trim everything away that I don’t want, and it leaves a part of those exposures and then I add a color temperature to it. I call it an organic process, because it’s like a big shrub that needs to be trimmed.”

The summer exhibition at Aims Community College has been a big hit. It’s an unusual interpretation of creative art that makes people think about light, images and perception. The exhibition will run through September, then Lewis will install a similar one in Loveland.

Fine art photography with strobes
One of the Zero G images by Mark Lewis that form the basis for his fine art photo exhibition, Energia, at Aims Community College in Greeley, Colo.

“That was the first experimental presentation of what I’d seen in my mind for a long time. I got everything printed up with no problem and had seams put in for the pole pockets. Once it was installed, I was very satisfied with the outcome. It was my first attempt to get dimension in photography that I felt was very successful,” says Lewis. “One of the questions that comes up a lot when people see it is how difficult it is to print. I never had a misprint with the material and it has worked perfectly every time. It was quite simple to print. I just followed the directions given to me by LexJet. I had to change pixel density to 720 and some minor adjustments like that, but I’ve printed in black and white and full color and have been pleased with every print I’ve made with it.”

Here’s a video of the exhibition…

Driving Customers to the Door with Backlit Images

Mark Lewis’s photography studio, Studio 121 in Loveland, Colo., was hidden from view. Though located at a busy intersection, the 50-year-old converted gas station was difficult to see, even by people stuck at the intersection’s stop light.

Lewis was lucky if someone spotted his neon sign, nestled in and amongst the other buildings, but all of that changed with some luck of his own. A friend of his purchased a number of light boxes at an auction at a reduced price. But, it turns out that the project for which he planned to use them fell through.

As luck would have it, he was willing to offload the light boxes, so Lewis was able to procure them at a discounted rate. Before purchasing six of the light boxes to fill his front windows and bring much-needed attention to his storefront, Lewis called his LexJet account specialist, Michael Clementi, and ordered a roll of LexJet TOUGHcoat Water-Resistant Polyproylene to test the concept.

“I ordered a roll to experiment, and it printed remarkably well. It’s consistent so that the light shines through it very evenly. It’s been very durable and holds its color. I’ve been very pleased with it, and my customers comment on the clarity of it. The detail is still remarkably sharp, even with images that are six feet tall,” says Lewis. “When I got the light box opportunity, sure enough Michael had the right material at the right price. Every time I call Michael remembers who I am, and he’s always keeping me up to date on the latest in the market. He’s been more than just a salesperson; he’s been a resource.”

So Lewis set about constructing a front-window display utilizing the six light boxes – four boxes stacked two by two in the larger window and two stacked on top of each other in the smaller one. The image shown here is one large image divided into four sections and placed together for a cohesive whole, with an advertising copy graphic in the other window.

Lewis says you have to be careful in a case like this, since the breaks that look like frames between the light boxes may end up across a face or otherwise detract from the overall image. “That deviation doesn’t really affect the composition of this image, but sometimes it does, and in those cases I use the same image at different angles in four different panels to create a kaleidoscope effect,” says Lewis.

“I can rotate it out every couple of weeks if I want to and keep it fresh. Since I have the Epson 9880 and the LexJet film, I can change it on a whim. At night it lights up brilliantly and garners quite a bit of attention,” adds Lewis. “I put up the display for minimal cash, and people started coming in who didn’t realize I had a photography studio. It made a huge difference. It was the best advertising money I ever spent. The response was immediate and people were commenting on how cool the sign looks. It looks like a much more expensive display than it truly is.”