Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scanography: Scanner Adds New Depth to Photography

LF_Tamara Stoneburner
Tamara Stoneburner
In photography, the quality of the work depends largely on the quality of the artist's equipment and finding the perfect angle for the shot. But now there's a new art form on the rise, one where the photograph is taken using office equipment that you may already have sitting around the office. Typically used for creating electronic copies of documents, scanners can also be used to make art. Orchid Nun by T_StoneburnerIn 2007, Tamara Stoneburner read an article in Smithsonian magazine that changed her perspective. The author, photographer Robert Creamer, described how he had documented a collection of flowers and found objects by placing them directly on his flatbed scanner. The resulting images were highly detailed, and she immediately saw this as a way to build the gardening journal of her dreams.
So she gathered some items from the yard—leaves, grass, bugs, whatever she could get her hands on—and threw them on her own scanner. She was instantly hooked, and would never look at the world—or her scanner—in quite the same way again.
Tamara is classically trained and talented with pen and ink, but she is no stranger to bits and bytes. First and foremost, she is a reputable calligrapher—former president and active member of the Washington Calligraphers Guild—specializing in hand-lettered family trees, marriage certificates, and heirloom-quality work for treasured documents from her Gracestone Calligraphics Studio in Ashburn. But while some calligraphers may be concerned when today’s brides bypass artisans in favor of fancy computer fonts, Tamara sees the bright side. Technology has given her the time and the tools to explore additional artistic outlets, one being the fine art of scanography.
“Scanography has been around for approximately 20 years,” Tamara explains, “And it has come a long way from office Xerox antics and medical scanning to really developing into an art form.”
Orchid Num by Tamara Stoneburner
By using a flatbed photo scanner, light passes over the object, making it pop out in ways that traditional photography would not. In addition, the depth of field is very shallow because the light source is so close to the object. Combine that with the high resolution of the typical home scanner—300 or more dots-per-inch, compared to the 72 dpi of the average website—and the results are what Tamara calls “hyper-real.”
Botanists and etymologists appreciate scanography because it shows detail that that cannot see with the naked eye. Tamara loves scanography because it serves multiple purposes in her life: as an art form, as a means of documenting and journaling, and as a tool for honing her drawing skills by allowing her to see fine detail. She especially enjoys playing with light and exploring a new way to see the world around her.
“Orchid Nun,” Tamara’s entry in the 2010 Washington Gardener photography contest, recently won first place in the Small Wonders category. She patiently posed and scanned the orchid bloom approximately 85 times over a period of three days to get the composition and lighting exactly the way she wanted it.
LF_How to Side BarTamara encourages others to give scanography a try, advising, “You can scan just about anything: flowers, insects, lace, fabrics, fishing lures, shells, money, yourself. It is easier to get started than you would think. It is artistically addictive, and I promise that doing scanography will result in your seeing everyday objects in a completely different and fascinating way…This is a wonderful, inexpensive way to render macro and close-up photography that is tantamount to large-format studio photography. It is photography without the lens.”

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