Shooting Challenge: Vortographs

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Vortographs

Following the popularity of cubism, a short-lived movement called vorticism arose. For this week's Shooting Challenge, you're going to capture a vortograph.


The Challenge

Use prisms and mirrors to capture a vortograph.

The Technique

OK, so where did we leave off? Oh right, vorticism. So this photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn comes around and attaches himself to the movement. He takes photos through three pieces of glass (see his work here), essentially a prism, to capture an image from multiple combined perspectives.

Many credit him as the first true abstract photographer.

So how do we recreate vortographs on our own?

I've seen a few different ideas. One is to use prisms. Another is to simply create a triangle of mirrors that extend from your lens, and photograph through them. I'm guessing you'll need to play with angles here to get the right look.

Honestly, I haven't come across THE ONE answer. Just don't merely use Photoshop. Find a way to recreate this restrained kaleidoscope effect...without just taking a photo of the inside of a kaleidoscope.

The Example

Our lead photo is Alvin Langdon Coburn, a portrait of Ezra Pound. The silhouette with the backdrop of...a window frame?...becomes a pretty incredible visual, especially as while you recognize repetition, you can't easily spot some perfect point of center focus or the hard edges of each duplicated image.


Flickr member Eva Kourou has an excellent homemade vortograph you should check out. She says that she built a vortoscope "based on how a simple kaleidoscope is made." She used an arrangement of three mirrors. Yet I can't imagine that any stock kaleidoscope can get you this broader level view that's not mere infinite reflection

For us to recreate this look, it's just going to take some tinkering. Share tips in the comments. I can't wait to see what you come up with.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, Oct 31st at 8AM Eastern to with "Vortograph" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameVortograph.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameVortographWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.




Recommend reading the philosophies and approaches to Vorticist art.


tl;dr: It was all about the future and movement. Harsh colors, crisp shapes, and leading lines.