Feb. 14, 2016 | By Kira
Celebrated fashion photographer Nick Knight isn’t one to merely observe emerging art trends. Instead, you’ll find him in the front row, camera in hand, ready to ride the wave of new and exciting art forms enabled by digital technologies. The influential photographer, who has won awards for his editorial work in Vogue, Dazed & Confused, W Magazine, and more, has now turned his pioneering vision towards a relatively new and unexplored form of art: the Photographic Sculpture.
Though its name consists of two classic forms of art, photography and sculpture, which date back several centuries, 'photographic sculpture' is firmly rooted in 21st century technology. Essentially, it is a form of art wherein a 3D scan of the subject, rather than a 2D image from a camera, is transformed into a physical, 3D sculpture through 3D printing or other digital methods.
Porcelaine photographic sculpture of Kate Moss, captured with 3D scanning technologies
For Knight, however, the process behind his work requires much more than simply 3D scanning and 3D printing a subject, be it a person or still life. Indeed, many companies offer personalized 3D scanning and printing services, but do they all amount to photographic sculpture art?
“The reason I call it photographic sculpture is that when I scan my model, I use exactly the same approach I do as when I photograph someone,” said Knight. The same directing, the same approach, the same searching for shape and form, the same desire to portray their emotion, but I don’t end up with a two dimensional photograph, but an object.”
“This object has been created using all the language of photography, such as multiple exposure, depth of field, and so on,” he continued. He even retouches it in the same way a magazine photographer would retouch an image using Photoshop. The difference is that this is “photograph as sculpture,” the finished object an exact physical manifestation of the digital data captured by the 3D scan and manipulated through CAD software.
To exhibit the possibilities of this new, 3D art form, Knight has already 3D scanned the likes of Lady Gaga, Liberty Ross, and Daphne Guiness, “all important women, strong women, and women who shape our visual culture.”
Of greatest note, however, are his 3D scans of top supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, which have been transformed into beautiful, provocative and larger-than-life 3D sculptures.
The first, called Statuesque, is a towering, 25-foot-tall 3D printed replica of Naomi Campbell in the nude—replicated three times for maximum effect. 3D printed in white polystyrene and based loosely on Warhol’s ‘3 Elvis,’ the giant Naomi Campbell is undeniably fierce, just like the real-life woman it was based on.
As Knight explains, the Statuesque 3D printed sculpture was exhibited during the SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution exhibition at Somerset House in London. Wanting to create art that incites conversation rather than blank stares, Knight initiated a ‘global conversation’ via his website: he created an online version of the sculpture, which people from around the world could digitally ‘draw’ or ‘write’ on. The virtual graffiti would then be projected, in real-time, onto the 25-foot-tall Naomi, who in effect became a canvas for people to record their thoughts, or to “color in and create beauty.”
A second 3D photographic sculpture saw supermodel Kate Moss transformed into a graceful ‘Fallen Angel.’ Knight said that he sees strong parallels between the “new religious icons” and fashion idols, both of whom are at times revered, at and others despised, often by the very same crowd.
To capture this sentiment, Knight began by 3D scanning a topless Kate Moss (who has had her share of ups and downs in the media’s eyes), her arms gracefully outstretched in a “classical religious pose.” He then 3D scanned the wings of a dove, and digitally layered them behind Kate’s body. A crown of thorns completes the religious imagery.
“I wanted to find a material that I felt appropriate for this and decided to work with one of the finest porcelain makers in the world, Nyphenburg in Germany,” said Knight. The Nyphenburg Porcelain Manufactory “sculpted Kate from the data I had provided, which is essentially a direct mathematical and optical recording of her form.”
Knight’s photographic sculptures are at times provocative, at times classically beautiful, and lie at the intersection of photography as art, digital design, and digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing. Yet another interesting aspect of 3D photographic sculptures is the question of material—while photographers print on paper, and sculptors often turn to clay, bronze, or marble, Knight can now choose from a variety of high-grade 3D printing materials usually reserved for the likes of NASA.
His current explorations with this new art form are truly just the beginning. “Over the last decade and a half this new art form has been my continual source of happiness. I love the fact that it is new, and as yet has virtually no set parameters - it remains undefined. What is most exciting is that it feels like a bridge into a new world, a world where art looks and behaves in ways we are only just starting to discover.”
In the future, he even imagines a world where 3D bioprinting can be an artistic medium: “to me, the most exciting and by far the oddest option is that possibility is there to actually print in living matter…Although the immediate reaction might be repulsion, the possibility of sculpting in living matter sets the mind racing.”
Image captured live on set during Nick Knight's 3D scanning shoot with Supermodel Naomi Campbell
In addition to photographing some of the biggest names in high fashion, Knight is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts London, and founder and director of award-winning fashion website SHOWstudio.com. This week, Knight is also a contributing editor at CNN Style, where he has discussed his 3D art, and other fashion film/photography projects in detail.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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