Miami artist Mark Diamond makes photographs the way he spins stories: expansively; overlooking not the slightest detail; layering and then layering some more.
He’ll start telling you about one of his ongoing projects, a series of life-size holographic portraits of Native Americans in full tribal regalia, and that sets off a monologue about the historic role of artifacts imbued with magical power, which leads to a spiel about shamanistic rituals involving hallucinogens, which gets him to that famous photograph of our big blue marble, titled Earthrise, shot by an astronaut during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.
But wait for it — he’ll tie everything together as seamlessly as he does the exhaustive number of images he’ll shoot of one subject, recording from every possible angle and perspective so that later he can painstakingly overlap all of those images and build from them his trippy three-dimensional works.
“That one photograph, that out-of-body view of ourselves from the moon, is said to have done more to invoke environmental consciousness than anything anyone said before it,” Diamond says as he explains the role of the image-maker. “There is a responsibility that artists either accept, or don’t, related to bringing up the general consciousness. This goes back to the idea of the shaman. Somebody has to have a vision and then be able to share that vision to help bring everybody else up to that point of consciousness about something, some idea. I’m not sure soup cans can do it. Or blue dogs. But once in a while you see a piece of art that really takes you there.”
For another of his ongoing projects, he hitches rides on helicopters to create aerial, 3-D photographs of South Florida landmarks, among them Vizcaya, the remaining homes of Stiltsville, Miami Marine Stadium, the Biltmore Hotel, the rising Perez Art Museum Miami. He hopes one day to publish an atlas of Miami, all of the images in 3-D.
“The majority of the population has stereo binocular vision. We see the world around us in three dimensions. That’s what’s normal,” says Diamond, 56, whose shoulder-length hair is usually kept in check by a backwards Kangol beret.
“What’s not normal is a two-dimensional photograph or painting. That’s an abstraction of reality. We have learned to interpolate the information we are given in a two-dimensional image. But there’s the story of the aboriginals who were given Polaroid photos of family members and friends and they didn’t understand what these images were because they hadn’t learned to extract from these two-dimensional representations what they were so familiar with in three dimensions.”
Diamond not only creates his own artworks in 3-D, but often is commissioned to document the works of others in the format.
“I think a two-dimensional photograph of a sculpture or of an art installation, even of a building, because architecture can be seen as monumental sculpture, is a type of art crime because you aren’t learning anything about the work’s volume in space. From the advent of photography, there was a desire to mimic what we see in three dimensions. Today, 3-D films and cellphones and point-and-shoot cameras that capture 3-D are getting more and more popular, but 3-D photographs go back to the 1850s. Representing an image the way we actually see it in reality is something people have been interested in doing for a very long time.”