All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it. --Samuel Johnson
I think people have the tendency to believe the sharper the lens, the better. I believe this isn't always the case. I remember seeing Susan Burnstine's photography for the first time and falling in love with the images. I met her at Photo LA, the International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition, and asking her about technique. She told me nothing. What I was particular intrigued by was the selective focus that was clearly more than just tilt-focus or a large aperture. There was something wavy and flexing about the focus of the images. So I set out to try making my own lenses that could allow me to distort my images in a similar way.
After playing around with a number of crafted lens filters, including the Vaseline on UV filter technique, I stumbled across a few instances of people taking photographs using fresnel lenses. A fresnel lens is a type of compact lens originally developed by Augustin-Jean Fresnel for use in projecting light long distances in lighthouses. The design allows the construction of large aperture and short focal length lenses without complex lens system typical of conventional designs. Although not typically designed for photography (more for projecting light), it is certainly possible to capture images using this type of lens.
This hotel art gallery is a series of fresnel photography black and white images I shot with a 4x5 Graflex Press Camera made in 1939 using my own homemade lens using a combination of glass and plastic elements with filters (i.e. fresnel lenses). The images were taken in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Yosemite, California in 2009. These images were inspired by a combination of seeing Susan Burnstine's work and wanting to extend creative control of the image through the technology of the camera and lens. Although this work is decidedly not street photography, I would like to think it contains the same spirit and innovation. I hope you enjoy the images.
Nature is not embarrassed by difficulties of analysis. She avoids complication only in means. Nature seems to be proposed to do much with little: it is a principle that the development of physics constantly supports by new evidence. --Augustin-Jean Fresnel