Alternative Monday 19 – Photogrammetry

This week’s Alternative Monday post is from artist and Fermynwoods Associate Educator Sam Francis Read. In 2018, Sam introduced the concept of Photogrammetry and 3D modelling to students from The CE Academy. The perfect workshop for an arts organisation, free to work cross curricular, in the woods, during British Science Week.

“I worked with Sam 3 times. He likes symbols and architecture and weird things like me.”

Lewis, student at The CE Academy

Photogrammetry used to be an exclusive and arcane technology to most, but in the last decade it has become increasingly accessible due to the cheapness of discarded Xbox Kinect sensors and the availability of open source creative software. The basic idea behind Photogrammetry is that a number of different photographs (as many as possible) are fed into a programme which produces a cloud of points determined by light data. These are then linked together like a spiderweb to form a 3D surface. The most straightforward way to demonstrate this to the CE Academy class was to let them piece together vertices from sticks and blu-tack – in essence the blobs of tack became the nodes or points in the cloud and the cocktail sticks held the web together.

Scanning their models and feeding them into the computer allowed the students to see the process play out in real time before having a go at warping the fabric of some 3D models on a laptop. The first time I had ever used this object lesson, this activity seemed to demonstrate the process well and successfully demystified 3D capture and modelling, which is becoming an extremely common tool for artists of all disciplines.

To demonstrate how 2D images can be constructed in a similar way, we vectorised some familiar logos (cars, football leagues, fashion brands) and then rearranged the data to turn the images into abstractions. This method is equally common to my practice and has plenty of creative applications from laser cutting to vinyl-plotting to animation, another powerful skillset for budding visual artists.

To round it off we enlarged some of our stick models into an inhabitable 3D structure built with similar concepts and covered with a decorated skin which the pupils could hide inside. I referred to it as an installation but the students preferred to call it “a den”.

This was a workshop which functioned on many levels, felt fruitful as well as anarchic and demonstrated some of the joys of a creative practice with many disciplines. The level of engagement was great and led to lots of creative output on the part of the students. Science!

Sam Francis Read

Reverse Photogrammetry installation, aka “a Den”

Look out for more Alternative Monday posts every fortnight, looking back on some of our favourite alternative provision activities.