Walking in Prospect Park one very snowy afternoon, I was overwhelmed by how beautiful the whole scene was, and thought about pulling out my camera and taking a photograph. I then began thinking about how a photograph could never really capture what it was that was “getting” me – the picture plane being a very poor substitute for the immersive environment.

So I began thinking about how I might create an immersive photograph, to hopefully blur some of the separation between the viewer and the landscape. I got it into my head that if I could extend the photo past the edge of peripheral vision, it might befuddle the mind into placing itself into the scene.

Then I got a very funny mental image of a sort of large diving helmet/photograph that the viewer could put on, in which would be recorded the entire view from a particular vantage point. I continued to think about different ways to record and display such a panorama of panoramas.

A little while later, I ran into a good friend who is an architectural metal fabricator, and who was working on a project involving geodesic domes. We started talking, and I realized that the geodesic dome (or rather, the geodesic sphere, though I always think of it as “the dome”) was the ideal framework for this idea, since it made a fairly good stab at reconciling the spherical infinity of possible viewpoints with a limited series of flat planes.

So the plan then became:

1) Design and construct the frame of a geodesic sphere large enough to fit a camera and photographer inside, yet portable enough to bring to any location.

2) Bring it to a location

3) Place a camera at the geometric center of the sphere

4) Photograph the scene through each triangular “window” of the frame

5) Print out the photographs and assemble them facing inward as the “skin” of the geodesic sphere

I decided that the easiest way to make and move the thing would be to break it down into a set of twelve pentagonal sections, eleven of which were further subdivided into triangles at the appropriate narrow angle to the plane (the last was the bottom and had nothing in its center, so technically not a full sphere, but close enough). After experimenting with a wooden prototype (where the sections joined with Velcro and zip ties, pictured above), I realized that I would have to use metal rods, and design decent connectors to put the thing together, sort of like project-specific tinkertoys.

There were no formulae I could find on the web for the angles that the planes met each other at, so I sat down with a sheet of paper and did the math. I went and saw my friend the metal fabricator and we cut chunks of wood to the two shapes we needed (centers and corners), drilled holes at the correct angles and depths, hot-glued nuts onto the corner pieces, and made simple one-piece molds. I cast the connectors in resin, cut aluminum rods to the proper lengths for a six-foot-diameter framework, and assembled the sections and then the whole thing.

I then brought it to the beach in Truro, Mass., on a rather cold but quite beautiful day in April, and made the photograph(s).

Since then, I have assembled the image in a couple of different ways. Facing outward, the photograph makes a quite striking sculpture of its own, especially with a light inside of it. I also displayed the whole frame partially skinned at the most recent iteration of my collaborative project, This Red Door. I am preparing to print the final skin and show the finished piece when I next have enough space and time to devote to it.

Currently, I am thinking about new directions for the project. The spherical canvas is an unusual sort of experience for the user/viewer to engage with. Beyond wanting to take and reconstruct additional photos (next will be a busy city street, where people are half in one frame and not at all in the next, and there’s chaos and change captured along with the space) I have ideas for more abstract work involving color, light and perhaps sound. The space inside the dome is very still and very private, at once meditative and solipsistic; I am drawn to the tensions that can be explored in such an environment.