There are many ways to make an artificial eye. We assume a central lens is needed because that's how our eyes work and cameras, too. That's why it is a shock to hear that Matson's images weren't made with a camera. How else could it be done? In 1975 Ray Kurzweil explored a different route by inventing a flat bed scanner. The eye became a sensitive stick that floated along the object to be seen. When the object was a flat piece of paper this was easy. A room, or the world outside, however was too distant for the sensitivity of the scanning eye without a lens, so in our minds we kept the scanner enslaved to papers and books.
Like the many people who xeroxed their body parts for fun, or used a copy machine for art, Matson discovered that the scanning eye stick was far better at depth that was assumed. More importantly as color scanning became cheap, and then became super hi-res, the final image of a quick scan had all the detail of a painting. She began composing cut flowers on a scanner bed and capturing the color images. So the images you see here were not photographed but scanned with an ordinary office scanner. The grace of the images is self-evident. But there was one more needed technology to bring them to life: ink jet printing.
is an important aspect of the visual world. Paintings could be made
larger than photographs because of the constraint the falloff of
light had on the physics of photographic printing. It was difficult
(expensive) to keep the tones on a wall-size photographic print
even from the center to the edges because of the differential in
distance from the projecting lens. It was difficult (expensive)
to chemically treat paper in the dark evenly at this scale. It was
difficult (expensive) to maintain temperature (which affected color)
at this scale. It was difficult (expensive) to capture sufficient
resolution at this scale. Therefore photographs were created smallish.
All these constraints have been removed by digital photography and
ink jet printing.
When I saw Matson's images I was blown away. Erase from your mind any notion of pixels or any grainy artifact of previous digitalization gear. Instead imagine a painter who could, like Vermeer, capture the quality of light that a camera can, but with the color of paints. That is what a scanner gives you. Now imagine a gifted artist like Matson exploring what the world looks like when it can only see two inches in front of its eye, but with infinite detail! In her flowers one can see every microscopic dew drop, leaf vein, and particle of pollen ó in satisfying rich pigmented color.
Matson has a gift with design. I delight in her new images, particularly the sly one with a wood mushroom and flower. She is at the forefront of a new wave in photography, or what we should call new imaging. New cameras, like the Foveon, new scanning technology, and new pigmented printers like the Epson series, are all going to give artists like Matson room to reinvent how we see again.
KEVIN KELLY helped launch Wired magazine in 1993 and served as Executive Editor. In 1994 and 1997, during Kelly's tenure, Wired won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence (the industry's equivalent of two Oscars). He is now Editor-At-Large for Wired. Previously, Kelly was editor and publisher of the Whole Earth Review. He is the author of Out of Control; New Rules for the New Economy, and the recently published Asia Grace. Instead of going to college he went to Asia as a photographer. His photographs have appeared in Life and other national magazines.