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Matinee: 'The Crystal Photographer' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

1 August 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the ninety-sixth in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Crystal Photographer.

Twin brothers Thorsten and Thomas Dreijer produced this 10-minute film about Verner Mogensen in 2000. Since then it's been shown at over 50 international film festivals, Thorsten estimates, "and also won a few prizes."

While the aspect ratio of this presentation is 16:9, the original was shot on 16mm film with a 4:3 aspect ratio. It survives the cropping very nicely, though.

"Verner Verner (artist name) is a man of many talents," Thorsten says, "because besides his passion for photography he is/was also one of the best magicians in Denmark. He made a living being a school teacher."

Neither the magic nor the school teaching will surprise you after a few minutes with Mogensen. He's inventive (even magical), scrapping together a way to photograph the microscopic landscape of his crystals. And he's as meticulous as a school teacher with a grade book about documenting everything he does.

Only two or three out of a hundred attempts are worth photographing, he says.

We see him in his lab where 30 years ago he began experimenting with crystallization techniques, hoping to photograph them. We watch him clean some glass plates before he drops various solutions on them. They will dry into the crystal formations he photographs.

He mounts each glass plate in a three-sided magnetic frame that snaps to a holder in front of his lens system. We see him assemble that optical system will bellows, extension tubes and lenses. It mounts to a Canon SLR.

The long lens extension allows him to enlarge the image up to 30x to capture an area not much larger than the head of a matchstick, he explains.

He shoots slides, which he lays out on a light table. This gives us our first glimpse of the images as he examines them through a magnifier.

They are fantastical geometrical shapes in every color of the rainbow. Magic indeed.

He records their chemical compositions down to the drop. Only two or three out of a hundred attempts are worth photographing, he says.

Inside he uses a strobe but outside he uses sunlight to illuminate his crystals. And always shoots with a remote release and a tripod to eliminate camera shake.

"I have an infinite number of potential motifs. My most important contribution is in choosing the best segments, the ones that create harmony in line and in form and produce the optimal color effect," he says.

And then he winks at the camera before telling a little story about Hans Christian Andersen and a drop of water.

Then the brothers Dreijer treat us to a slide show of Mogensen's brilliantly colored, chiseled images. There's nothing quite like them.

No two are alike, he says, which, as the thought crystallized, may have brought smiles to the faces of the twin brothers who made the film.

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