One-shot #17: Fasser’s Triple Exposure

Whilst scanning the second box marked “Belgium” from the collection of A.O. Fasser’s Great War slides – the first box is here – I suddenly came across something very odd indeed:

This appeared, at first glance, to be a double exposure of ruined buildings in Belgium. Courtesy of the Jordan/Ference Collection.

Double-exposed glass plates are somewhat few and far between; occasionally, an absentminded photographer might forget to change plates whilst hurriedly taking photographs and get one by accident. Some lensmen – particularly spirit photographers – intentionally made double exposures. But this was the first I’d seen on a stereo slide before. I was so astounded that, after making this scan, I removed the slide from the scanner bed and checked to make sure I’d hadn’t made some moronic move like scanning two slides that were stuck together – but indeed, I had not, and I had found two exposures on one slide.

Only I hadn’t.

Putting it into a scope to get a good idea of what I was looking at, I had trouble merging the images – which makes sense when you have two disparate depth levels and multiple subjects playing at multiple depths. But upon closer examination, there are at least three exposures on this slide (my guess would be that three is the limit here, but that’s just a guess). This made the images even harder to merge & distinguish from one another. I was able to focus on one building, then another – and then on a shot of some barren scenery, most prominently noticeable in some extremely foreground-centric images of flowers, trees, and foliage:

Some of the foliage, with contrast enhanced to show the subject in question.

I did some slight adjusting to make the darks of the right-hand image of the stereo pair more closely resemble those of the left, so that the tonalities would match:

One of the few wonders of the digital age: the ability to compensate for the technological failings of consumer-grade equipment from over a century ago.

So then, this was done on purpose. But why? Fasser’s work, generally, is pretty standard documentary stuff – he wasn’t a brilliant art photographer or anything of the sort. But he was clearly experimenting here. To what end? Was he trying to make some statement about Great War devastation? Or just seeing what happened if he made a multiple exposure? It doesn’t work as an image; stereographically it’s far too confused for that.

So why make this triple exposure? There are elements in it that align in interesting ways as a single-frame image, but it really doesn’t work in 3D. This looks like what goes on in the mind of David Lynch after partying with Hunter S. Thompson, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joel-Peter Witkin. It’s just weird, and somewhat creepy. Therefore, I love it.

I just don’t know what it is.


Instead of my usual single-anaglyph-for-a-single-image, I’m going to present three, and three separate merge points. The captions will explain where I’m merging.

A straight isomorphic merge of the complete sections of the left- and right-side images.
An anaglyph focused on the gate of the larger, and better articulated, of the two buildings pictured.
An anaglyph focused on the foliage in the far foreground.

Weird stuff indeed. If anybody has any thoughts as to what Fasser might have been attempting to do with this oddball piece of glass, please leave a comment below!

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