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Written by Anne Tschida - BT Arts Editor   
April 2012

Mark Diamond’s 3-D photos and holograms are sought by collectors and corporate clients -- and dog lovers, too

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Huasska Panorama, a video art collaboration with Rodrigo Arcaya and Stuart Ellis, is another form of Diamond’s kinetic art.

On a leafy, verdant street at the edge of El Portal sits the studio, gallery, and home of a photographer who might be better known away from Miami than in his hometown.

Mark Diamond makes 3-D images, video, holograms, and stereograms of people, pets, cityscapes, architecture, sculpture -- sometimes on commission, sometimes for the love of it.

When visiting the studio, you might see a 3-D aerial photo of this 1924 house and surrounding neighborhood, as Diamond shot a series of architectural photos of Miami from a helicopter. The skeleton of the Marlins’ stadium, the latest Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell high-rises, and the moribund Marine Stadium on Key Biscayne almost look like little models when rendered in multi-dimensions.

It’s images like these that have made Diamond attractive to clients and aficionados across the globe. Developers have used such images for PR packets, and collectors and galleries have displayed them in their spaces. Lately some people have requested portraits, for some reason, of their dogs.

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You have to see Cindy's Purple Cabbage in 3-D to fully appreciate the minute details.

One large 3-D piece, covered in Plexiglas, lies on the floor of the studio-home. You can walk over it and, when you do, the irises sprouting from dirt that make up the image seem to sway and undulate. It’s a small-scale version of a piece that has yet to come to fruition, a victim of the Great Recession.

On this bright, cool day in March, with doors and windows open, revealing a view of an extensive garden and grounds, Diamond explains that a Japanese bank commissioned a much larger version of the work, which depicts a budding rice paddy, for its building in Tokyo. Visitors would walk on it as they entered. For now at least, the project is on hold.

Hanging from the ceiling in another room is one of Diamond’s most popular works, a hologram of Dizzy Gillespie. Done as a limited edition, the piece has found a place in a number of collections. As you move side to side, the jazz great seems to come alive, puffing his cheeks, blowing his horn, and then smiling.

Diamond, a musician himself, met Gillespie in California in the 1980s -- “he was a bit of a shutterbug himself,” says Diamond -- and took 100 photos of the trumpeter to create this particular hologram.

Holography, as Diamond explains, is a completely different animal than 3-D photography. Holography “is more like sonar or radar,” recording light beams and utilizing laser techniques to come up with the final product, which is “really more ephemeral, not like a photograph at all.” Without concrete mountings or frames, holograms appear to float, you can see through them, and they are more akin to sculpture. From a distance, holograms are not even visible.

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Sculptures like Box in Clouds, a collaboration with Boni Grossman Smith, come alive in 3-D.

Although obsessed with holograms from a young age, 3-D is what he concentrates on now. It’s far cheaper and less time-consuming than making holograms; 3-D imagery may only involve taking six to ten photographs, and can be made the same day in the studio.

While Diamond would specialize in holography, his first love was photography; more precisely, photojournalism. Born in Panama to a photojournalist mother and a father who was a TV stringer covering South American upheavals, he heard stories and learned of topical events through visuals, he remembers.

By the time he was ten and living in Miami, he was playing around with a lens. Still in his teens, he was contacted by Rolling Stone at the last minute to shoot some images of the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami Beach, which was attracting politicians and radicals alike. The Rolling Stone photo editor at the time was Annie Leibovitz.

“Pictures became my calling,” says Diamond, who would go on to work for various alternative newspapers and magazines in the 1970s. He photographed rock stars, jazz musicians, and activists, while indulging in his love of music and of that new genre called holography.

He went to New York to study it, and his holograms appeared in the then-recently opened Museum of Holography on Fifth Avenue. (That pioneering collection was eventually bought by the museum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where it now resides, having become the largest hologram collection in the world.)

Eventually Diamond returned Miami and opened a gallery specializing in holography -- the first in the Southeast -- in the Falls area in the mid-1970s. He exhibited holograms made by practitioners from across the globe, and continued to make his own.

He closed the gallery in 1988, and concentrated on building up a clientele and collecting base. And he did. His holograms are found in hotels, at NASA, and Disney World. His portraits hang in the homes of Quincy Jones and Wynton Marsalis.

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A contemplative Dick Gregory: Diamond was conflicted about how to portray the outspoken comedian.

These days, he is asked to make 3-D photographs of a lot of sculpture, as people have come to realize that, far from a gimmick, 3-D depictions are far closer to the real thing than 2-D. During Art Basel Miami Beach, he created such imagery for the Will Ryman flower sculpture in front of the Sagamore Hotel, and for an installation from local artist Robert Chambers at the Ping Pong exhibit.

Most recently, he was commissioned to make some old-fashion video, no 3-D involved, for a new Peruvian restaurant and lounge in downtown Miami and for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Although often commissioned, Diamond also snaps away at art openings and studios, for the love of it.

Back in his own space, it’s clear where Diamond’s heart lies -- in the numerous portraits of musicians, rebels, and innovators found all over the walls. “I often say, ‘The more I learn about art, the more I like science,’” he quips. “Seriously, art and science bear some methodological corollaries -- once in a while, what surfaces is truly an evolutionary innovation.”

Diamond points to one of his favorites, a 3-D image of Bo Diddley -- known as “The Originator” for his Chicago-style mixture of blues and rock -- wearing a bejeweled hat and playing a square guitar. There’s also a picture of Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, and one transfixing portrait of comedian and social activist Dick Gregory.

Diamond says he told Gregory he was conflicted as to how to portray him -- with humor or seriousness? The end result is an image of a solemn man whose eyes, thanks to 3-dimensional innovation, nonetheless twinkle.

 

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