Jonathan Ross Holography Collection

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A Personal History

Probably the first lenticulars I was aware of were ‘winky postcards’, which as a prepubescent boy, caught my eye on the racks outside tobacconists when on holiday in Italy and France in the 1960s. I still have one bought in Cannes which came with quite a strong perfume embedded in it. On the back it reads “Carte Parfumée  “Aromflor”” and the aroma lasted many years but now, sadly, it just smells of plastic. Happily, the nudie cutie on the front still pouts and switches poses in her bubble bath.


Then, in 1967, the Rolling Stones issued “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, as a response to the psychedelic fabness of the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper”,  which came with an 8 inch square lenticular print on the cover showing the band in a 

sort of magician’s fairy tale setting and, if you look very closely, the faces of the Beatles peeping out from the surrounding blur. 

The photography was by Michael Cooper, who also worked on the Sergeant Pepper album with Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

Since the printing technique seemed very new and trendy, I sort of assumed that it probably originated no earlier than the 1950s, but research reveals that it was first employed, in the form of a parallax stereogram by Frederic E.Ives in 1903 in the USA.

A useful history can be found at

And recently I have found a number of examples dated 1906 in the form of Puzzle Postcards, manufactured by H.C.J Deeks & Co of Patterson, N.J.

The Parallax barrier technique was being exploited as a novelty portraiture technique by companies in Germany and the USA during the 1930s. I have  an example  from the Movie Photo Studio of Chicago called a “Life Motion Photograph” and another “Souvenir of Atlantic City”, both with a Patent  in the name of Pelsenthal & Sons dating from 1908. Also  a ‘patent applied for’ “Movie-of-U” from the 1933 World’s Fair , Chicago. Annoyingly the German examples have no manufacturer’s name, just a blind stamp saying “Germany”. Although a couple were used as promotions for Kolynos Dental Cream and the Andersen Motor Company in the USA, I guess that most were a precursor of the novelty lenticular postcards we are familiar with today. Some of the characters appear to have stepped straight out of the decadent Weimar Republic of 1930s Germany and could well have posed for artists such as George Grosz and Otto Dix.

From what I take to be the 1940s, I have a splendid black and white portrait of a man holding a Rolleiflex camera (of just the type I remember my father owning), taken by Deep Pictures Ltd of Bruton Place, London W.1.  I also recall having dinner with someone in Tangier who produced a similar portrait, with a glass lenticular lens, that he had had taken in Paris after the War and which I thought could have been from the legendary Bonnet Studios.

From the early 1950s  I have some pocket calendars with charming young ladies disporting themselves in a number of revealing ways and, from the same era,  some splendid framed wiggly pictures.  One of these has the instructions “ROCK this picture to and fro, Do it SLOW and watch it GO”, and another the credit “Photo-Move Inc., New York . Lamac Photo, Patent Pending”. Rather more sedately Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are celebrated in a couple of dodgy souvenir items for the Coronation in 1953. The larger is labelled ” Fairylite regd. A Lentic Product. British Made”

When I became involved with holography, in the late 1970s, lenticular printing became of interest as another form of 3D imaging that I could offer clients and I remember being blown away by some exquisite Bonnet prints that I saw at an optics conference in Strasbourg. Regrettably I do not own any examples, just some old slides which don’t tell you much. Around that time there were very few European suppliers of lenticulars but I did obtain some nice samples from a Swiss company called Hyperspace and a British company called Freelance Corporation also sent small examples of what they could do.

In the late 70s the newspapers were full of a new development in 3D. An amateur camera had been released on to the market  by Jerry Nims and Allen Lo and investors were very excited about the potential for this new market. Great though these little NIMSLO cameras were it did not really work as a business venture, probably because of the inconvenience of having to post your negatives away and wait for quite a long time for the lenticular prints  to come back. They weren’t all that cheap either and the 3D wasn’t  exciting enough compared to the instant gratification one got from Polaroid prints.

I didn’t acquire a Nimslo myself until around 1990, by which time they could be picked up fairly cheaply and I used it for years as an excellent camera for taking stereo photos, using the outside two of the four lenses, and making print pairs like the ones that can be seen in the Stereo section of the website.

During the 1980s I got to know David Burder who was Mr 3D in terms of the British market, promoting every conceivable type of 3D Image making though his company 3D-Images and his work with the Stereoscopic Society and elsewhere. Over the years he has been incredibly generous with samples of his diverse product range and in sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge of 3D history.  These days everyone and their dog can knock out a lenticular print, thanks to digital printing and more readily available lenses, but David was and still is in a league of his own.

To be honest, I always rather looked down on lenticulars. Having become accustomed  to the smooth parallax viewing you get with a hologram, the comparatively jumpy shift between zones that is common in lenticulars can be annoying. In addition to which they were plastic and had a cheap feel to them.  I think most people associated lenticulars with novelty items rather than the impressive display pieces they can be. However, in the days when holograms only came in green, orange or rainbow, one had to admit that lenticulars were full colour and didn’t need special lighting, which was kind of an advantage.

Unless you were working in advertising, the most widely disseminated type of lenticular in the late 20th century was the postcard and, judging by the credits on the back of those I have accumulated over the years, the top players in that game were Toppan Top Stereo and Xograph (Visual Panographics, Inc.).

The most popular subjects have tended to be religious, cartoon, cute, tourist and girls with very few or no clothes on. You can find matchboxes with similar subject matter  too.

Of course, magazines are always keen to adopt any new printing technique which will attract readers to their publication rather than any of the dozens of other similar titles on the news stand.

Xograph, a development of Eastman Kodak, was first to crack the magazine market, supplying a black and white lenticular print for LOOK magazine in 1964, following up with a colour one for the same publication  and  then producing a whole series for Venture magazine and later for the Illustrated London News

Read more in this blog:

As occurred with holography twenty years later, manufacturers in all fields like to be seen as the first to use something and then, once the gimmick factor has worn out, abandon it if it has no lasting value.  This has happened throughout the history of 3D and generally the imaging technique has had an upgrade or been picked up again in some form or other. So with lenticulars in the magazine world, the technique was ‘re-discovered’ in the 21st century after only sporadic use in the previous few decades.

Postage stamps are the same. I have a couple from the 1970s and a number made this century

And the same applies with Advertising. Xograph entered that field too, along with Vari Vue, probably the best known manufacturer of winky  or ‘flip’ images fro;m the 1940s – 60s   Also Optigraphics, who are still going strong.

Kodak had another shot at promoting 3D with its Dynamic Imaging division and produced excellent results technically, which for some reason did not score commercially.

Manufacturers of alcoholic beverages seem particularly keen on lenticular advertising and I have examples from several different eras

But they also helped promote everything from The US Marines to Allergy remedies,

MacDonald’s etc etc

Naturally the Music Business has revisited lenticular technology a few times since the Rolling Stones.

The Stranglers used it in 1979 on their album The Raven, Bananarama had a go in 1984,

Devo made a typically daft promotional badge and a number of artists  got the treatment for their CDs in the 1990s.

I also have a number of famous album covers made into lenticular conversions but these were never actually commercially issued.

More recently, Britney Spears produced some fabulous merchandise described as Collectible Video Motion Cards, (unfortunately no manufacturer’s name).

My collection of lenticulars inevitably has its fair share of novelty products, including some fantastic kitsch, some comic book heroes, some psychedelia and some pop culture references. I am unable to resist this kind of stuff and have probably accumulated far more than I need to illustrate the genre.

I have had a couple of  flicker rings for years but when I started researching lenticulars I was fascinated to find that there is a whole collecting culture based around them in the USA and that what started out their lives in ‘gumball machines’ can end up in custom–made cabinets arranged like fine jewellery.

 I have picked up a few more examples on eBay, inspired by a kind of nostalgia for a 1950s American childhood and teenage life that I only knew through comic books. The life of hamburgers, milk shakes, convertible American cars, dating and drive-in movies as seen in the Archie comics seemed quite incredible from an England of flannel shorts, Aertex shirts and woollen socks. Recently I noticed that Marvel comics had attempted to resurrect the product with some nicely made and packaged rings, incorporating a lenticular into the display case, as well as in the ring, and have a feeling that these were probably produced with a nostalgic adult audience in mind, as much as a new young one.

Lenticulars by Artists are far more prevalent now than they have ever been. I have been spotting them in Art Fairs in London for the past ten years or so and they are beginning to command quite serious prices.

I don’t have any work by Agam ( in my collection yet but I remember being in New York in the early 1980s, riding somewhere on a bus, when I saw something in a gallery window which looked distinctly holographic so I hopped off to take a look. It was an exhibition by the Israeli kinetic artist who had actually made some holograms  but these were the first fine art lenticulars I had seen.


Subsequently I found that Richard Hamilton had made an earlier work with Vari-Vue in 1974, called ‘Palindrome’ and I was lucky enough to find an ex-edition copy on eBay a few years ago. It prefigures the hologram series he made with Margaret Benyon in 1991.

A number of well-known artists have made lenticular postcards or had their images converted into lenticulars for museum shop sales and several of the holographers from the Royal College of Art whose work is in my collection have moved into lenticulars, notably Jeffrey Robb, Martin Richardson, Jon Mitton and Matthew Andrews. A contemporary of theirs, Anthony Hopkins, is another former holographer now making lenticulars, generally using pop culture imagery

Jeff Robb has been working with Chris Levine, the designer and light artist, who I have known from early holography days, and produced some exquisite lenticular works including a series with Grace Jones and another with Kate Moss. Jeff also kindly made a portrait of me, using the same camera system, developed by Rob Munday, that was used to make the portrait of the Queen on which Chris & Rob collaborated.

David Burder produced a postcard sized version of the image which was given away at the launch of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition  featuring the full sized work.

In early 2013, Paul Stolper Gallery in London mounted a survey show of lenticular art where I was thrilled to find a new work by one of my all time British art heroes, Peter Blake being alongside some of the RCA artists.

Despite their new respectability, with large format works by Chris Levine to be found in The Fine Art Society on Bond Street in London, lenticulars will probably always be associated with their down-market past and when I had the pleasure of seeing Rob Munday and Chris Levine’s lenticular portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in the National Portrait Gallery, I couldn’t quite get over the feeling that, as I walked past, she was going to wink at me.

Videos of selected items from the collection.


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