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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

America I Am

The African American Imprint

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Lenticular production is an intricate process of creating several layers and printing them onto large lenses to create the effect of a three-dimensional or “flip” image. Usually, we start with interlacing and then printing digital images, which are hand-mounted to ensure that the lenticular lens is aligned perfectly with the interlaced lines printed on an image. The margin of error is extremely tight in the process, and even a hairline shift in the mounting process can throw off the entire effect, and you can end up with a very fuzzy image.

For his exhibition panels, Richard posed an additional challenge by asking us to produce these lenticulars as backlit panels. Since the images contained full-bleed photographs that merged into silhouetted sections, backlighting meant that we’d have to find a way to prevent the background image from showing through the silhouetted area. We decided to adopt a new process by printing the images directly on the lens on a 600-dpi printer rather than going through an interim print surface. This allowed us to create a continuous-tone photographic look with crisp dark blacks denoting the silhouettes, while retaining the translucence of the panel for backlighting. It’s usually difficult to isolate a part of a color image to make it pure black in a flip lenticular, but after a few experiments with the process, the eight lenticular panels for the exhibition came out perfectly.

When most customers approach us about lenticulars, they’re usually quite unfamiliar with the process, but luckily Richard had worked with traditional lenticulars, which made it easier for our technicians to lead him through the preflight process, a crucial part of creating a lenticular piece. The most interesting bit of our work with Richard was that we never met him in person for this project, as he’s based on the West Coast. After an elaborate set of discussions with our technical and sales teams, Richard sent us test files from which we created prototypes that were mailed to him. He trusted that we understood his vision and allowed us to experiment with our printing processes until we got the lenticulars to be just perfect. At the end, we shipped them directly to him in crates, and he was more than happy with the outcome.

In a conversation with Richard, he told me that art had to resolve Du Bois’ question metaphorically in the entrance gallery so that each visitor would hold on to the question through the remaining 11 galleries for the exhibition, which were designed as a response to this initial question. It was important that they carry it in their hearts and minds. So he created a “time tunnel to set expectations of an entirely new exhibit that reached beyond this gallery.” I’m extremely proud that the lenticular panels we produced for the entrance gallery of this exhibition framed the context of the entire exhibit for the visitors.

No one could have said it better than The New York Times when it reviewed the exhibition: “...this show succeeds in its original purpose. It makes the question, ‘Would America have been America without her Negro people?’ seem superfluous.”

Baldev Duggal, president and founder of Duggal, has been innovating visual solutions for image-makers for more than 40 years. Credited with building and designing the industry’s first dip-and-dunk processing machine, Duggal has maintained his status as a leader in the imaging business and is heralded for outstanding service by consumer and trade magazines alike. With digital capabilities reaching worldwide, his headquarters covers a block on West 23rd Street in New York City.


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