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Articles
Vol.1 / Issue 3

 

Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade:
with Interactive Software, Animations,
and Videos for Readers to Explore

by Rhonda Roland Shearer with Gregory Alvarez, Robert Slawinski, Vittorio Marchi and text box by Stephen Jay Gould

* Please note this essay contains 8 videos,
10 animations and 3 interactive presentations.

<PART III>

 

Beyond "cut and paste" -- what other photo tricks did Duchamp use?

click to enlarge
Illustration 40A.
Known Stieglitz version of Duchamp's Fountain urinal published in Blindman No. 2,1917
Illustration 40C.
Examine the circled area in illustration 40C. The indefinite shadows and discontinuous lines and edges indicate this lower left corner as a likely site of photographic compositing and retouching.

As previously described, I had suspected that the Stieglitz partial urinal photo represented a step in Duchampís photo compositing process, and that this photographic part, was itself, perhaps, made of photo parts. Illustration 40B suggests that, indeed, the drain holes were added within the Stieglitz partial photo, which, as a subtle but visible vestige, remains in the original Stieglitz photo, see illustration 40A.
click to enlarge
Illustration 40B.
When the contrast of light and shadow are amplified, the drain holes reveal a distinct boundary that is, unexpectedly, and without apparent reason, lighter in value and gives the literal appearance of having been added as a patch.

Note that in illustration 40B, when the contrast of light and shadow are amplified, the drain holes reveal a distinct boundary that is, unexpectedly, and without apparent reason, lighter in value, thus giving the literal appearance of having been added as a patch.

The urinal in the Stieglitz photo, shown close up and large, created a greater technical challenge for hiding alterations than in our previous examples of the hatrack or coatrack, that are depicted as farther away and small, and therefore creating less expectation of perceiving visible detail. Since hatracks and coatracks are, literally, made of parts (the hooks and wood base are all physical parts put together), photographic cutting and pasting of parts can naturally exploit these predetermined and expected joinings, whereas, the urinalís smooth and continuous, singular form does not offer such easy opportunities.

Illustration 40C depicts yet another important piece among numerous pieces of evidence (pun intended). Porcelain urinals are molded forms that produce clean, clearly unambiguous lines and edges as shown in illustration 40D, E, F, (depictions of Bedfordshire type urinals taken from Mott, Crane and Trenton Potteries catalogues of the period [circa 1917]). Examine the circled area in illustration 40C. The indefinite shadows and discontinuous lines and edges suggest this lower left corner as a likely site of photographic compositing and retouching

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 40D.
Trenton Potteries
Illustration 40E.
Mott
Illustration 40F.
Crane
Three different company catalogue entries (circa 1917) featuring the same urinal type that looks most like Duchampís urinal

We are presently working, along with forensic experts, on a substantial list of other oddities found within the Stieglitz photo (40A) including: (1), more precise determination of the nature of the distortions, first noted by William Camfield, between the urinal in the foreground as depicted in relation to the painting in the background. We will also analyze and try to relate the seemingly strange scale differences among objects in the Stieglitz photo; such as the size of the urinal itself in comparison to the gauge of the string tied to the left "ear-bracket"; or the relatively too large appearance of the rough hewn texture of the wood pedestal; (2), testing the feasibility of placing the urinal (whose actual form, not shown, is hollowed out underneath) so off center on the pedestal, as depicted on the photo; and (3), studying the strange shadows, lighting, as well as the peculiar reflections (reminiscent of pooling urine), in the top upper lip of the urinal -- a pooling that appears to be defying gravity. (If these reflections were actually urine, we would have to be standing above, strattling a normally installed urinal in a novel orientation -- with our backs against the wall looking down into the pool of urine and facing out to whoever would be peeing.)

click each image to enlarge
Illustration 41A.
Illustration 41B.

Two Photographs of Duchamp's studio taken in 1916-17
A common but more difficult method of combining photo parts depends upon the use of a dark or black background (cardboard or cloth) placed into a scene and a corresponding space left blank on the photographic plate in the camera.
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

A second compositing method, beyond cut and paste, is suggested within the two studio photo depictions of Duchampís urinal, see illustrations 41A, B, C, D. A common but more difficult method of combining photo parts uses a dark or black background (cardboard or cloth) placed into a scene with a corresponding space left blank on the photographic plate in the camera. In this blank space, a second image (not in the immediate scene) can then be seamlessly added into both the plate, and also into the (formerly) plain black background.

Illustrations 42A, B, C, D show a few early examples from a 1898 book written
click each image to enlarge
Illustration 41C.
Illustration 41D.
Close-up views of the Duchampís studio photographs (41A and 41B) Carefully note the general blackened area behind the urinal in illustration 41B and 41D and the dark cloth hanging directly behind the urinal in illustration 41A and 41C.
for the general public, and titled, Magic; Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography. Compare these four illustrations to illustrations 41 A, B, C, D, Duchampís two studio photos that depict his urinal. Carefully note the general blackened area behind the urinal in illustration 41B and 41D and the dark cloth hanging directly behind the urinal in illustration 41A and 41C. Not only do the other photo alterations, as previously discussed, exist in these two studio depictions (remember, the ghost figure in 41A and the likely cutting and pasting of the hatracks and shovels in 41A and B) but the urinal appears to be "applied" to the scene using the classic black background composite technique as the device. Look at our animation analysis in illustration 43A and 43B.

click each image to enlarge
Illustration 42A.
Illustration 42B.
Illustration 42C.
Illustration 42D.
Four 19th century examples of the "black ground method" of compositing
multiple photographic images taken at differnet distances

The irregular shadowing, unsure line and edges of the urinalís silhouette (especially prominent in 43A) indicate a careful but, imperfect, masking and transfer of the urinal onto the blackground placed in the scene. Note, in the animation, that the studio depictions of the urinalís interior lip shape, when outlined, comes very close to matching the form of our standard Crane/Mott/Trenton Potteries Bedfordshire model; whereas form of the interior lip on the ideal Stieglitz urinal (that is, when the drain and pipe holes are corrected to be centered) is very different, see animation 43C. Of course, these data conform with my prediction (derived from my hypothesis) that the two studio photos are slightly altered representations of an actual Bedfordshire urinal (and, therefore, that a Bedfordshire model would predictably almost match.) However, a 3D model -- even a corrected one -- based upon the geometry in Stieglitz photo would not match either the two studio photo urinals or the Bedfordshire model. As I have argued, the Stieglitz image is not representing, factual urinal different from either the 2 studio urinals or Bedfordshire model. I believe that the Stieglitz urinal is a photo composite made of varied parts taken from photographs of an actual Bedfordshire 3D urinal from different perspectives and at different scales).

click each image to see animations
Animations by Gregory Alvarez and Rhonda Roland Shearer
Illustration 43A.
Illustration 43B.
Illustration 43C.
Video of Urinal animation analysis that compares the 3D Crane model to the Stieglitz model and this studio photo
Video of Urinal animation analysis that compares the 3D Crane model to the Stieglitz model and this studio phtot
Video of Urinal animation analysis that compares the Stieglitz photograph, the corrected ideal shape and a 3D model (made with depicted distortions) are compared.

click each image to enlarge
Illustration 44A.
Illustration 44B.
Compositing separate images can play with scale with use of multiple images of the same figure taken at two different distances. Magic Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography, Albert A. Hopkins (ed.), 1898, p. 426, 430

Looking back at the historical examples of the black background method of photo compositing, in 42C and D (now circled and labeled as illustrations 44A and 44B), we see how the compositing of separate images can play havoc with scale (when we see multiple images of the same figure taken at two different distances, we interpret these figures in the final photograph as small and large sizes.) Other cues reinforce our interpretation of small and large figures standing side by side (as opposed to the small figure suggesting greater distance, and the larger figure as the same size standing in the foreground). In illustration 44B, for example, the tableís position in space (directly opposite to the larger standing figure), along with the feet of the small figure physically happening to meet the tableís horizontal plane, immediately evokes our most absurd and impossible interpretation -- a real Tom Thumb!

According to forensic experts, the only way to get a better grasp on why and how the scales of urinal parts, and other objects in the Stieglitz photo look out of whack, is to determine as much as possible about actual sizes. For example, how large are the tags used at the 1917 Exhibition? (see illustration 45A, of the Stieglitz photo with its tag circled.) The urinal looks disturbingly small in comparison to the string, hang tag, and wood pedestal texture. We have already determined, by our prior analysis, that the "ear-brackets" as depicted in the Stieglitz photo appear too large when compared to the actual Bedfordshire models of the period. Perhaps the ear-bracket [with the string and tag] are from a single photo taken at a different distance, a photo that was then fused with the rest of the urinal parts?)

Moreover, our forensic expertís initial analysis echos my suspicion that the urinals in the two studio photos (45B, 45C) are, in addition to our sense that the scale of the urinalsí size is off, in comparison to the rest of the room, most likely composited in, and also do not seem to hang according to gravity, (We need to try to measure Duchampís old studio room. If any original woodwork exists, we can learn a lot more about Duchampís photos.)

click each image to enlarge
Illustration 45A.
Illustration 45B.
Illustration 45C.
Perhaps the ear-bracket [with the string and tag] are from a single photo taken at a different distance which was then fused along with the rest of the urinal parts.
The two urinals appear applied upon
black backgrounds and seem to not
hang according to gravity.

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