Richard B Pearce

"PHOTOSCANS" Come to UW's Nohr Gallery

GALENA, ILLINOIS, MARCH 1, 2006 -- A three-week show featuring mural-sized photographs of regional wildflowers begins April 4 at the Nohr Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Platteville. What makes this exhibit unique is that the images are taken with a flatbed scanner--not a camera--and have such detail and clarity that they have been dubbed "superreal" by some and possibly constitute a new type of photography.

Taking a laptop computer, office scanner, power pack and extra lights into the field, former biomedical researcher and recent transplant to the Midwest, Richard Pearce, produces high resolution images of living plants and insects native to the Upper Mississippi states.

Pearce calls his images 'photoscans,' rather than photographs, and has, over the past four years, cataloged upward of 100 local species, including several listed as endangered or threatened.

"With a scanner, the lens, light source, and photodetector pass over the subject, producing uniform focus and resolution from edge to edge," explains Pearce. "In the process one can pick up over 100 megapixels of content with incredible detail and color depth. Even high-end cameras only grab 8 or 16 megapixels and, in close up mode, are severely handicapped by their limited depth of field and overall blurry vision."

The photoscans on display in Platteville show detail in the context of the larger subject matter. Pollen grains or the architecture of single stamens are seen as part of the whole flower, for example, while the tongue of a butterfly is rendered as clear as the flower on which is rests.

"We have all gotten used to seeing close up photos that are blurry to the extreme in all but a tiny area, but it's artifact and we are not seeing the whole picture as we do in nature."

To see everything in one image the final print has to be large--up to five feet on a side. Visitors are encouraged to walk up to the images to examine the details as well as enjoy the full picture at a distance.

Although cumbersome in its present state, Pearce suggests the photoscan could undergo myriad technical modifications and evolve into a new approach for capturing distortion-free images of almost any subject.

"I chose wildflowers simply because I found myself in a region chocked full of them and I enjoy hunting them down and this is a great chance to shed new light on a resource we sorely need to preserve in the face of unbridled development and a rapidly warming climate."

Pearce has also used the technique to illustrate a book on glass jewelry and insists there is no practical limit to the resolution obtainable with scanner technology and sees a day when faster, portable models could be used for hand-held close-up imaging.

The show runs April 4 to 22 except for Spring Break from April 14 to 17. Gallery hours are 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and 12 to 3 pm Saturday. The Nohr Gallery is located in the Ullsvik Visitor Center, 1 University Plaza, on the University of Wisconsin campus in Platteville, WI.

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