The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 14, 2003


Carlisle photographer zooms in on 3-D imagery

You think you know what a dragonfly looks like. You've examined old pictures of wool mills dating back to the 19th century. You've skimmed through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But have you examined these things closely with 3-D glasses? The naked eye just doesn't capture the magnificent · and even initially unsettling · detail of stereoscopy.

Jon Golden appears here with a stereoscopic viewer and his favorite distraction, Lucy. Golden has collected hundreds of stereo cards of dogs. He invites town residents to share their own stereoscopic photos, particularly any of Carlisle, at his presentation on Saturday, March 15, from 2-4 p.m. (Photo by Ann Marie Brako)

"The work speaks for itself; it really does," says Jon Golden, owner of 3-D Concepts and a two-year Carlisle resident. Golden's company offers stereoscopic products and consulting. Recent projects include the restoration of Richard Gutman's museum installation "American Diner Then and Now" at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington (2002), the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory's Starmaps in 3-D at the Boston Museum of Science (2002), and the Sports Illustrated special 3-D Olympics (2001) and Swimsuit (2000) issues.

Opening reception tomorrow

Take a look for yourself at the "Explorations of the Third Dimension" exhibit at the Gleason Library featuring 3-D stereoscopic images of the past and present. The show, the eighth in the library's Visual Arts Program, will run from March 12 through May 3. At the exhibit's opening reception on Saturday, March 15 from 2 to 4 p.m., you will have the opportunity to don 3-D glasses and witness a unique image and sound presentation in the Hollis Room on the 3rd floor.

Golden's early career

Golden grew up in the Boston area, but went to study graphic design at Connecticut College. He anticipated working in the music industry. His father gave him his first camera in 1978 to use while in school, and foreshadowing the future, his very first photos attempted to capture the depth of a fire escape from different angles.

"They had perceived depth, but they didn't have true depth because as we know a photograph stops right at the frame," says Golden. "Even though people think it has dimension, they're only imagining the dimension."

After graduation, Golden began working for The 19, an audio recording facility in Glastonbury, Connecticut, that served New York advertising and record company clients. He quickly became an engineer producing sound tracks. A musician, he also helped out as a session drummer. He enjoyed working in electronic, jazz, and rock music. He moved back to the Boston area, as a professional audio consultant at Lake Systems. During the day, he worked on audio presentation systems, at night he played in or produced music for rock and fusion bands. In fact, his first exposure to Carlisle was recording one evening at the Blue Jay recording studio off Bedford Street. After a decade of working in audio, however, he found himself tiring of the band scene.

In 1988, artist Ron Labbe asked Golden to do the soundtrack for a 3-D photography show. Golden was amazed at the quality of stereoscopic images. Previously, he had only seen the low-resolution, mainstream images through a Viewmaster device and the B movie Creature of the Black Lagoon in college. The success of the 3-D project threw Golden into the middle of the stereoscopic community, and over the next five years his new interest turned into a profession. He founded his own company in 1993. By 1997, it became his principal business.

"I was always looking for better tools to create these 3-D images," says Golden. "The next thing I knew I was importing these tools from Europe to create these images for myself and others. In the middle of the 1990s I realized I was spending more and more of my money-earning time doing something I loved more than the recording studio work."

Today he works a 60-hour week. He primarily earns his living through projects for clients at museums, theaters, and educational foundations. He sells stereoscopic toolscameras, viewers, and projectorsto professionals. He always looks to promote his field, and spends a lot of his time answering questions and giving advice to hobbyists.

Learning from the past

Golden collects old stereoscopic equipment and old images. There are more of these around than you'd think.

"People looked more at stereoscopic images in the 1800s than they do now," says Golden. "It's the way they saw the world. You couldn't take a train or really go anywhere until the late 1800s, so people sat in their parlors and had hundreds of these [images]."

A stereoscopic camera has two lenses that are set apart at the distance of the average human eyes. Different cameras work better for different environments; for example, one would use one camera for photographing a tiny hummingbird and another for shooting an enormous canyon. A hand-held viewer displays the results of each picture to each eye. Viewer users adjust a knob to focus the display by bringing the images together to accommodate their own particular eye distance. The brain does the rest in creating depth. Today there are no digital stereoscopic cameras; however, it is possible to create digital stereoscopic images by combining two photographs. The quality of a film camera, however, greatly exceeds the results of a digital camera.

"When you look at top-end professional photographers," says Golden, "they still shoot film. They'll have the digital there to do a test, kind of like doing the Polaroid just to check it, but they are still using film."

Modern applications of 3-D stereoscopic imaging include the use of the computer. Programmers can create virtual-reality environments for training purposes, such as teaching a pilot to maneuver a plane. With painstaking work, a programmer can even convert a 2-D flat image into a 3-D depiction. For example, flat canvasses by master painters like Renoir and Degas become stereoscopic interpretations. Art historians either are fascinated or horrified by the results.

Golden also spends a lot of time taking and producing his own pictures. A close-up of an object also reveals in sharp focus the almost frightening rips and tears of a human thumb. Golden echoes Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels: "We are ugly creatures." Perhaps because he has taken such a close look, Golden prefers not to photograph people. He rarely takes a 2-D picture, and focuses his stereoscopic camera on objects, architecture, and huge infrastructure like train tracks and aircraft.

"In the end, it's all about the images," concludes Golden. With a trip to the library and using the 3-D glasses on loan there, you can share his unique and unusual perspective of the world.

To learn more about 3-D photography, visit
You can find information about Golden and his products at

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito