Thinking about moving kaleidoscope image

2 March 2014. Published by Benoît Labourdette.

The criteria of composition

When we do the framing of an image with a camera, we often use the classical criteria of image composition, inherited from the tradition of figurative painting. Which is quite natural. Things as we see them in the camera are the same as the specateur will see. This is the “WYSIWYG” Sytem (What You See Is What You Get), dear to the computer when it became “user friendly” with the advent of the Macintosh in 1984.

Of course, this system works, it is the system of figurative painters, and its qualities are proven. But in reality things are not so simple in painting, because there is all the work of the nature of the image itself, the result does not necessarily see it now. A fortiori for carving, many steps, abstract, above the “occurrence” of the image.

The photographic film

Similarly, when we took photos or movies with photographic film, we saw in the viewfinder of the camera an idea of framing, but the other settings should be made “blind”, with various aids (including photoelectric cell), and we discovered only after the development of the film, the brightness (or exposure), color rendering or black and white, contrast, color balance, in brief, the “material” of the image. Besides the best camera in the world, Leica, was not even aiming reflex, ie the framing was a bit “judgmental”, especially for close shots, because of the is offset between viewfinder and lens. So the photographer with Leica was had to imagine his image, and make a gesture with his master coming to progressively experience and an intimate knowledge of his machine.

Video and digital

Since the advent of video cameras and digital cameras, we look through a screen that shows the image already reproduced (or almost) ie what will be the image seen by the future audience. This is the same image. Ie we can not really think the image, imagine the image, we are immediatly audience, immediately on the other side of the fence, so to speak.

This has great qualities, it makes money, it prevents from surprises, we control (or believed control) much the image. But it is, conceptually, an easiness which, paradoxically, making us dangled immediate control, empty somehow the situation of shooting of its mystery, its imagination, its power. It is not for me to regret a past that we would assume more “noble” than the present. It is fair to assume that we can not, at all, think the act of making pictures in the same way as before. The tool has become essentially different, so the act of shooting changes essentially.


What is an Animated kaleidoscope ? The way I made ​​(and I ’m not the only one using this technique) is simply placing beside itself the same image, flipped vertically and/or horizontally so that its edges connect to themselves, as in a mirror, thus producing a continuous image (we do not see small thumbnails side by side, because of their reversals, their edges are fluid and difficult to discern as such, they produce an other form, as do images of the Rorschach test).

For the final image to retain the same proportions as the original image, kaleidoscope consists of 4 images, or 9, or 16, in my practice.

Centers of the kaleidoscope

Because of this arrangement in unfolded mirrors, which is found at Kaleidoscope “centers” are the connections areas between the edges and the corners of the images. Thus, when the image frame in order that it well be mounted as kaleidoscope, we are not going, at all, fit based on a composition that we would see the result, but it will fit by edges and angles, paying greater attention to what is happening in these places there, which is what is most visually significant in our cultural codes of composition, but which became, in the future kaleidoscope image, the most meaningful to the viewer. In short, what is virtually invisible when shooting is what will build the vital subject of the image that the viewer will see.

Return of abstraction and life

Thus, the operator shooting Kaleidoscope finds himself once again in the position of one who puts up around an imaginary structure, an idea, the conditions for a future image, which is not immediately given to see. We could very easily build a real-time system which would let us see the result of the kaleidoscope immediately. But then control that would allow this tool would immediately remove from the kaleidoscope its imaginary area, its dreams, its utopia, its life and its desire. What makes an image great, is its mystery, its desire to existence. The fantasy of man to become God, to fully master the representations he makes, leads to produce a cold world.

Make animated kaleidoscopes without being able to see the result immediatly is travel to an adventure, as the viewer and the image produced will be sharing this adventure, mystery, discovery, the unexpected, the accident that gives life. Sharing free interpretation.

Kaleidoscope offers a very “organic” vision. As a visual metaphor of cell division, it opens up a field of perceptions and emotions, far beyond the ornamental it might seem at first glance. This figure has always concerned me, I offer you cinematic explorations.