ARTICLE NATASHA STAGG
Steven Sebring loves old-fashioned photography. His studio is decorated with near-ancient cameras and the tracings of the analog-inspired: hardwood floors, soft leather chairs, sheepskin, guitars, and a miniature drum set for his son who is “media free.” But there is a future-driven element to even the most puritanical photographers. Capturing real-time with a machine is still a theoretical concept, much like the fourth dimension is. And the fourth dimension, along with the organic movement and imperfections of life, insists Sebring, is captured here, in a contraption he’s built and shrouded in secrecy for the past three years.
“The Big Rig,” as he calls it, is a paneled geodome lined with a hundred cameras on a wheel. The project it has created is called “Revolution.” His subjects—star of the eleven-year project that preceded this one, the film Dream of Life, Patti Smith; a tai chi master who rents a studio in his building; and current “muse,” the model/activist/TV star Coco Rocha, along with others—enter the dome and are recorded. The result is a picture that captures hundreds of angles per second, making the image interactive: viewable from all sides, perfect for photo booths that send images to iPads, and, yes, revolutionary, in studying the body in motion.
Large-scale photographs accompanied by tablets and 3-D printed captures will be on display from May 21st to the 23rd at the 69th Regiment Armory (and 69, says Sebring, is his lucky number) in New York, and the opening is on the 22nd. Much more is in the works after this invention is brought to light, though, since the possibilities are limitless, and 30 patents protect the software that harnesses these observations. Rocha herself is as enthusiastic as the creator about his invention. As the first model to be photographed by the Lytro camera in 2011 (after contacting the company herself about it), she has a reputation for assisting in the discovery of communicative technology. “This is the only project I keep coming back to,” she says, after explaining that she turned down a very, very good job to participate in this one. That’s how badly she wanted to be the first in the machine. “It’ll be something else to put on my Wikipedia page.”
Sebring’s inspirations don’t stem from the digital world, though. Marcel Duchamp’s radical 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (first shown at the Armory in 1913) attempted, and in many ways succeeded masterfully, to capture the movement of a person coming down the stairs. Entirely by coincidence, 100 years later, in the same space, Sebring will show his version of Nude Descending. He shows me the demo version on his iPad, and there it is: a nude, walking down stairs, traced through time with fluttering trails made by her feminine gestures. “We killed it,” he said. “We really killed it.”