Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged imagePrismatics: Exploring a New World (1972) / view images from this book

Duncan’s most atypical book stemmed from his friendship with and long-running study of Pablo Picasso. Why, Duncan wondered, had Picasso — a master of so many artistic mediums — held no particular fascination with photography itself. Picasso’s reply was direct: “Long ago, I pointed to the lens and said the trouble was here!” The words became a challenge to Duncan, who commissioned Astro, of West Berlin, to adapt their sophisticated optics of lenses and prisms for the cinema and television industry to his Nikon F and Leica SL. The attempt marked a new way of rendering color and form, and led to the eventual publication of Prismatics.

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From the book jacket text:
David Douglas Duncan, with this provocative and absorbing new book, offers us some of the most haunting and revolutionary images seen since the camera was invented. Duncan, the veteran war photographer who also created two bestseller art books, Picasso's Picassos and The Kremlin, may well have discovered, with Prismatics, a new art form.

This book reveals Paris, Picasso, and Chevalier as they have never been seen before — however, the subjects might have been any city, any person. The results would still have been extraordinary. In a twelve-page appendix, Duncan shares with other photographers everything he has learned from shooting with prisms and exotic lenses. As he says: “There are no secrets here — just hard work, and some of the most rewarding camera moments of my life.”

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From Duncan's foreword:
“Now, I have taken a few exhilarating beginner's steps carrying my strange camera with its exotic lenses and prisms. Each picture is an instantaneous exposure, a single transparency, nothing more. Everything I have learned in photography has somehow gotten involved as a companion in this adventure of exploring my new world.”