Miriam Ross

Urban landscapes in 3D: spectacular and realist views

Stereoscopic (3D) images have long been discussed in terms of whether they offer greater realism or spectacular displays. Their depictions of urban landscapes interact with these overlapping and, at times, contradictory paradigms. For example, nineteenth century stereoscopic photography was sold to consumers as a gateway to the wonders of the world at the same time that it was used in the classroom as an educational tool that could more realistically present cities under study. More recently, digital 3D films present recognisable streets, buildings and city scapes in fresh, visually new ways that give viewers the sense of having travelled to the these locations. These films, particularly the action blockbusters, more often than not combine stereoscopy with CGI effects in order to spectacularly explode, dismantle and otherwise destroy the familiar locations that they present. In each case, stereoscopic depth planes and the projection of images in close proximity to the viewer means that viewers are more physically engaged with the images than they might be when viewing their 2D counterparts.

This presentation is interested in how stereoscopic images help place an embodied viewer within urban landscapes and what happens when fantastical and other-worldly event occur within that environment. Are viewers more invested in the locations in which they are virtually placed or are their specific pleasures involved in the process of feeling simultaneously there and not there? Are these questions contingent upon whether stereoscopic images show contemporary locations or provide us with a view into the past?

Although Auckland has not yet provided the location for any digital 3D blockbusters it has been the site of stereoscopic photography and art and so provides a fruitful location to think through how these questions might play out.