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  • On Nov 4th 2019, former boy band member and current fashion icon, Harry Styles, posted

  • an image to twitter.

  • Within 24 hours it racked up over half a million likes.

  • It was the cover to his long awaited sophomore album, and fans dissected every last detail.

  • From the pink and blue color palette, which was used for the studio backdrop, his

  • custom Gucci outfit, and was even painted on his fingernails.

  • To this disembodied hand in the corner, which belongs to Tim Walker, the photographer.

  • And finally, the scandalous release date - Friday December 13th.

  • His ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift's, birthday.

  • But zoom out to the whole image, and you'll see something that extends far beyond the

  • world of Harry Styles fandom.

  • This circular photograph is the latest in a long line of album covers that have that

  • same warped composition.

  • This is the story of music's obsession with the fisheye lens.

  • In 1906 renowned physicist Robert W. Wood was in his lab at Johns Hopkins University

  • with a bucket full of water, a pinhole camera, mirrored glass, and a lot of light.

  • He wanted to see if he could create an image of the world from the perspective of a fish.

  • Whose view from underwater compresses the entire horizon.

  • This experiment might seem unusual, but Woods was a professor of optical physics and he

  • dedicated his career to inventing unconventional tools to study light.

  • From developing this disk whose microscopic components helped determine the age of stars,

  • to inventing this toy which, according to the patent, “created grotesque images of

  • people's facesthrough a series of perfectly placed mirrors.

  • I first heard of him as being sort of an offbeat kind of guy.

  • He often had a deep insight into things and kind of a quirky way.

  • That's John Beaver, a photographer who is also a Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

  • That basic diagram of the rays coming at different angles, I teach that all the time, it's

  • in every beginning physics book.

  • But the idea of making a camera out of that, I had never heard that Robert Wood had done

  • that.

  • In this paper, Wood detailed what he wanted to see:

  • the circular picture would contain everything embraced within an angle of 180 degress in

  • every direction, i.e. a complete hemisphere.”

  • And luckily, he left us with a set of instructions.

  • Diameter of the paper, what's that?

  • Open only in photography darkroom.

  • I feel like I'm about to murder somebody.

  • Let's go get some water.

  • Anchors away.

  • Let's get another one of those clamps.

  • In case of contact flash skin or eyes with water for at least 15 minutes.

  • That's fine.

  • Oh no it's not because it has to be under the pinhole.

  • I honestly have no idea how the hell he did this.

  • I think there's an easy way for you to do it now that he couldn't have done.

  • You can just put a waterproof GoPro in the bottom of the bucket.

  • God dammit.

  • Can we just cut to the pictures?

  • This is a picture he took from under a bridge.

  • This is a line up of men.

  • And this is what a fish might see if all those men were looking down at it from above the

  • surface of a pond.

  • Soon, researchers and scientists built on Wood's idea.

  • From 1915 through the 1930s, it was the fields of meteorology and astronomy that drove the

  • development of a camera lens that could capture that coveted fisheye perspective.

  • And on the eve of World War II, German inventors filed a patent for a lens which they then

  • shared with the Japanese company Nikon.

  • The lens used the same principles as Woods' water experiment.

  • You can see it right in his diagram with the bucket.

  • As the light rays come in at a steep angle, they come out at a less steep angle.

  • And so those light rays that are coming from huge angles are compressed onto the picture.

  • In 1957 Nikon produced their first special order fish-eye camera, factoring in inflation,

  • it was a $27,000 piece of gear.

  • Though they were still primarily used for scientific research, a few caught the attention

  • of magazine and newspaper photographers.

  • This 1957 issue of Life Magazine, shows a fisheye view of a senate hearing.

  • A few months later that same camera photographed a pole vaulter mid jump.

  • And in 1962, Sixty years after Robert Woods' original experiments, Nikon's first

  • consumer grade fish-eye lens hit the market.

  • And it became a pop culture phenomenon.

  • It captured baseball stadiums Shark cages

  • Political conventions The Apollo trainings

  • And protests.

  • It was and always has been a handy tool to capture tight quarters.

  • as well as huge spaces.

  • But perhaps its greatest strength was making rock stars appear larger than life.

  • When the Beatles kicked off the British Invasion in the mid 60s.

  • The fish eye lens was uniquely suited to document the insanity.

  • Here they are at a Miami press conference.

  • And during a TV performance.

  • The len's warped perspective reflected the trippiness of the psychedelic era.

  • Including the Woodstock music festival.

  • This is jazz musician, Sam Rivers', 1965 album Fuchsia Swing Song and it's one of

  • the earliest fisheye album covers.

  • A few months later The Byrds Released Mr Tambourine Man.

  • Over the next few years the fisheye album art format cemented itself in music.

  • The most common format was this: A giant circular fisheye lens portrait of

  • the artist or band. with typography above and below it.

  • In more illustrated approaches, the font wraps fully around the image

  • And some exclude the artist altogether, opting to show an interesting scene or landscape.

  • Oh, I just thought of a fish eye album cover.

  • Do you know Hergest Ridge by Mike Oldfield?

  • No, but I'm going to look it up.

  • Wow that's cool.

  • The fisheye lens was a go-to piece of gear for music photographers and filmmakers by

  • the end of the 1970s.

  • It was there for concerts, television performances, and photoshoots.

  • So by the time MTV launched in 1981, it was inevitable that the super wide angle lens

  • would play a huge role in music videos.

  • It could get super close to a performer while still capturing the space around them.

  • This is the music video for the Beastie Boys trackShake your Rump

  • It was shot with at least three cameras equipped with a fisheye lens.

  • Fisheye worked for every genre, from 60s hippies to alt rock to hip hop.

  • But hip-hop had a sense of humor, and it was in your face.

  • Which helped turn it into one of the genre's signature looks.

  • And in the 90s that's thanks to director Hype Williams. —

  • From 1991 to 1999 he directed dozens of music video for top artists.

  • And many of those prominently featured a fisheye perspective.

  • Busta Rhymes,

  • TLC,

  • and of course, Missy Elliot.

  • The list goes on and on.

  • And let's not forget those album covers.

  • The Fisheye lens is, no doubt, a novelty.

  • When you see a photo taken with it, your eye will likely first focus on the highly distorted

  • style of the image, and then register what's in it.

  • But that undersells how timeless and useful of a tool it actually is.

  • One generation sees it as a psychedelic photography trope.

  • Another a 1990s hip-hop throwback.

  • If you're an astronomer, it helps you track clouds moving across the atmosphere

  • and the terrain on the surface of Mars.

  • And if you're as curious as Robert Woods, it'll let you see the world from the point

  • of view of a fish.

On Nov 4th 2019, former boy band member and current fashion icon, Harry Styles, posted

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How the fisheye lens took over music

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/08/07
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