How To: Vortography

A lot of people visit this blog after searching for ‘vortography’ or ‘vortograph’, and I’ve  been asked several times how to make a vortograph and how to set up the lens and mirrors.

I used 4 mirrors which I had cut at a local glaziers. They measure 2 inches by 6 inches. If you get mirrors cut, remember to ask for the edges to be smoothed as you’ll be handling them quite a bit.

 

They need to be taped together to make a prism. The sides of the mirrors give really nice effects, so having a side which is thicker works well if you want to capture that, so add that extra mirror to one side. I also added thin copper tape to the sides of my mirrors to help give a more defined pattern.

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Prism for vortography

I found that the technique works best with a wide angle lens; if you zoom in you can loose the effect. I’ve tried several different camera and lens combinations – all work, including an iPhone which is much easier to work with and I don’t have worries about my lenses getting scratched. But essentially it’s just experimenting to see what works. There isn’t a clever set up as such – just hold the mirror in front of the lens until you see the image you want. A tripod would help for this as it’s a bit fiddly. I’ve found that taking a ‘normal’ image and then printing it and taking the image again through the mirrors works well, or otherwise taking a vortograph of an image displayed on a computer monitor. If you look at some of my other work you’ll see the colours that are produced when using this technique of photographing a monitor or iPhone screen using a prism.

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Top left is where the thicker mirror edges are. You can see the copper tape showing up which makes the triangular nature of the images clearer.

I originally discovered this technique in photography by looking at the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn. The work of Wyndham Lewis is also worth exploring, and a great book to explain this style of art is ‘The Vorticists’, by Mark Antliff and Vivien Greene.

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Strong lines work well

I’ve probably talked about vortography quite a lot on this site, but the main references here will be in the initial work I did for my second assignment. These are rough notes on vortography from my written learning log and are not complete yet – please be aware of that. There’s also a further post on vortography which is mainly about my reasons for exploring the technique.

 

I didn’t find many photographers using the technique now, if you use it after reading this post I’d love to hear from you and see how it went!

 

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