Advertising and risk

A few days ago a friend told me that an article on the German artist Julius Von Bismarck had been published in a supplement of the newspaper El Pais de Espana as a result of his participation in the most recent edition of PhotoEspana. A few days before, a different friend had mentioned a similar article, only in the digital edition of the same newspaper. (You can read the link here). The article also talk of Santiago Sierra, a Spanish artist with whom Von Bismarck collaborated in his NO project. In turn, as I write this post, another friend has just given me another link to an article on the same topic. The reason I mention this, is because last October I talked about Von Bismarck and Sierra, and a few days later I wrote a post about “gobos” and projectors in general.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

In that post I praised the political concept of the work of both artists whilst explaining how to build your own “mini image fulgurator” for little money. My surprise came when a month later a prestigious Spanish advertising agency proposed the idea of developing a prototype of the same idea on a larger scale, for an important advertising campaign. I received the surprising news in Montevideo airport, about to return to Spain after having developed a workshop for a strobist technique, and the idea excited e a lot. Upon my return to Barcelona I began to develop a 4×5 format gobo projector that reach a projection of 70 metres and be fire from the flashes of the compact cameras of the event participants.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

The complexity of the development was the synchronisation and power. The had to be clearly projected 70 metres from a wall because I would not be close to the “target” like Von Bismarck in his political works.

For the synchronisation I counted on the support of Bach Import who lent me an Omnicell slave unit that proved more effective than the range of the Wein units. The slave unit was connected to a PocketWizard transmitter which transmitted the signal to a receiver connected to the flash. I did the first tests on the street with a Bowens flash and I came up with the idea of improvising a symbol/sign that I could design on a black adhesive, and then cut it by hand and stick it on a 4×5 glass plate.

  Adhesive plate with the word NINI

  Bowens bayonet top

  Projection on the street

Another problem to solve in the tests was the flash power – for this I used a TravelPak from Bowens.
  Travel Pak

My Bowens flashes are 750W/S and I needed to see if projection of the symbol was sharp at a long distance, and if not, estimate the necessary power of the flash for that distance. I decided to ask the studio ‘BarcelonaStudios’ to lend me a hand by testing their Elinchrom gobo projector with a generator on the door of their studios.

  At the door of BarcelonaStudios

With the timing, power, and the projection issues resolved, it was only necessary to find a solution of recharging the flash quick enough, as many simultaneous shots were going to be fired with the compact cameras of the participants. To solve this issue I went to some other generous colleagues, this time the people of Top Studios, and they allowed me to test with some equipment by Profoto. I developed a provisional adapter from Bowens to Profoto and got to work.

  Bowens to Profoto Adapter

The Profoto’s recharge time was very fast and the projection at different distances worked perfectly.

  At Top Studios

Using a 4×5 plate projector, the next matter at hand was the choosing of the right lens. It would need to have an image circle for that format, and be able to focus. I built the box with a device to move the plane of the plate and the lens that worked best for the invention was a Fujinon W 5.6/125 large format lens, with a fixed extension tube.

The entire invention took a week of design and testing, and when the prototype was finished the client decided that they didn’t want to take a chance on it. The planned campaign was very shocking and fun, but every venture has its risks. Now my Fulgorito (Little Fulgurator) will be at home for another occasion – but for those of you who are in Madrid, I recommend as I did last October that you do not miss seeing the real “Image Fulgurator” by Von Bismarck, and to meet him and Sierra.

  Original version Image Fulgurator 2008

Advertising and Risk.pdf

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Gobos, spots and fulgurators

In the previous post I explained how, from a technical point of view, the Image Fulgurator had the same function as a spot light, like Zoom Spot 18-135 or a Mini Spot Lite, both from Elinchrom.

Elinchrom Zoom Spot 18-135

Elinchrom Mini spot lite Elinchrom Mini spot lite

DIY Image Fulgurator © Marcelo Isarrualde DIY Image Fulgurator

The special features of these accessories is that they have an optical part – lens or condenser – that allows that image located between a strobe and the optical part, to be projected in a background. These metallic parts that can be put between the light and the optic, are called Gobos (Goes Before Optics). There is quite a large variety of options that can emulate venetian blinds, foliage, and stars, among others.


On one occasion I used them on a photo shoot for Clara magazine. It consisted of making a cover on Araceli Segarra, followed by an illustrated article that could be the first of a series of covers, dedicated to prominent women in different professional areas.
The ambience on the set shouldn’t have to have too many elements because any of the pictures could be considered a possible cover. There had to be enough empty space to allow for text and headlines.

Araceli Segarra © Marcelo Isarrualde

It had to look like it was a wide space with natural light. To achieve this, we used a Wafer big softbox with a Bowens 1500 strobe and the contrast was decreased with three big expanded polystyrene reflectors (Porexpan®, Telgopor®, Styrofoam®, Frigolit®, etc). A big white umbrella was set above the camera, exposed at -1 ½ EV below Wafer softbox power, to light up Araceli. Finally, an Elinchrom Zoom Spot 18-135 adapted to a Bowens’s bayonet was used together with another Bowens torch at 1500 W/s. A gobo with the image of a venetian blind was placed on to the spot light.

Lighting diagram © Marcelo Isarrualde Lighting diagram

The shot was taken with a Kodak slide film EPP100. In the analogical world a correct exposure and the power ratio correspondence between the strobes ,was key because of the little latitude margin of the slide film, (error margin in the exposure). But also nowadays it is very important a correct exposure in order to the make the most of our raw files.

Araceli Segarra © Marcelo Isarrualde Making of

Gobos, spots and fulgurators.pdf

Image Fulgurator

A couple of years ago, german artist Julius Von Bismarck came to Barcelona to give a lecture at CCCB. He is the inventor of a device called Image Fulgurator, that is an analogical camera that has been turned into a flash by means of a lens. With the Image Fulgurator, Von Bismark is able to project any image on any surface, hence his flash is triggered when there is another camera with flash nearby.

Julius Von Bismarck © Julius Von Bismarck

The film has been replaced by a laser drilled, metallic sheet and through a sensor placed in the camera mount, the flash of the Image fulgurator is triggered by other cameras in the vicinity. Quoting the author , Image Fulgurator is “a device for physically manipulating photographs. It intervenes when a photo is being taken, without the photographer being able to detect anything. The manipulating is only visible on the photo afterwards”.

Fulgurator 2008 © Julius Von Bismarck

In theory it can be used at any time as long as there is another camera nearby using a flash. It projects an image on any surface at the exact same time that the other camera is taking a picture. This action takes only a few milliseconds and the image can “slip in” in other people’s photographs.

Fulgurator 2008 © Julius Von Bismarck

Von Bismark performs interventions with Image Fulgurator in events with important media coverage or in world emblematic locations. Like when he projected the dove of Magritte’s painting “L’Homme au Chapeau Melon” on the Mao Zedong portrait at the Tiananmen square. He also “fulgurated” pictures taken from pilgrims during Pope Benedict XXVI visit to Madrid, in collaboration with spanish artist Santiago Sierra. The latter had been awarded with the national arts prize Spain Fine Arts National Prize in 2010, but rejected it since, in his own words, he considered himself to be a “a serious artist“.

Fulgurator Mao © Julius Von Bismarck

No projection © Julius Von Bismarck

Photography, art or technic?

Photography is a mechanic art since it’s possible thanks to a “machine”, the camera, which we must know how to use. From it’s own etymology, photography means also writing with light. In the hands of an artist, that light will produce an art work or would be the means to an end in other applications.
Since this is a blog on lighting techniques, I thought it was appropriate to talk about the Von Bismark work and his conceptual discourse,, which personally like. But, would it be necessary to take abeautiful Minolta camera to pieces to get our own DIY Image Fulgurator?

Marcelo Isarrualde

A Fulgurator is in fact a slide projector with a flash light, instead of a continuos light. Dismantling the back cover of an analogical camera, and placing a slide where the film normally should go, you can make your own one. Another option is to use a box with similar characteristics, taking care of putting the lens bayonet at the exact same distance between the optical focal plane and the camera bayonet fitting. I wouldn’t have destroyed my beloved Nikon FM and F2A for this! Instead I put two slide boxes together with a Nikkor lens back cover.

Marcelo Isarrualde

Marcelo Isarrualde

Marcelo Isarrualde

This simple little box can project images on studio backgrounds the same way other devices like an Elinchrom Zoom Spot does with the gobos. But in a way more affordable way!

Marcelo Isarrualde © Marcelo Isarrualde

Marcelo Isarrualde © Marcelo Isarrualde

Image Fulgurator.pdf

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