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Community Spotlight: Wernher Krutein | Living from a Sense of Awe and Wonder for the Universe: To Capture and Disseminate Media as a Lifelong Endeavor


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Living from a Sense of Awe and Wonder for the Universe
To Capture and Disseminate Media as a Lifelong Endeavor
by Wernher Krutein

My Journey started a long time ago, from a place unfamiliar to most of us and to me too. I was born into a fairly well-to-do family in Santiago Chile. Early on as a tiny child, I saw much abject poverty. I can remember deeply in the recesses of my memory many profound questions this brought forth, that to this day permeate my sense of an impassioned conundrum that continually asks the question . . .  Why? 

Why is there so much beauty as conjunctive reality shares its strange manifestations of incomprehensible pain? Why can I take that first breath into the essence of what it is to be me, and float into that insatiable desire for the miracle we unconsciously accept into the identity of self? Being, and seemingly others struggle just to exist.  It is an arduous process of discovery that is wondrous and accompanies our desperate imperative to survive.

Yet with equanimity, that being still cries for universal acceptance. I (the ego) beg for acknowledgement that is intermingled with a primal need for (universal) Love, and with an ensconced and coterminous passion, we want to give Love. It is an instinctive precept programmed into our essence – and unless otherwise taught, it is a primal factor that motivates a being’s endeavor for meaning – to give.

The search for this meaning is a never-ending process that has taken me into a passion to share my drive for understanding this beautiful conundrum (I, me versus the All). (Together perhaps we can be forever).

My path early on and to this day is a precessional communication to inculcate a sense of Awe and Wonder for the All through the use of the communication mediums. (Stills, Motion Picture {moving stills}, Sound, Aural, Written, Kindness, Spiritual Transmutation, Love, etc.).

I moved to this amazing land, California, USA, when I was 8, and a new smorgasbord of realities imprinted their colorfully glorious panoply of that wonder that had become my search, and it willfully transformed into a need to communicate the miracle of this Great Mystery I love though I know not.

By the time I was 9, I once begged my father to give me the chance to film aircraft at LAX as we waited for my sister to arrive. It was a “Regular 8” camera. It contained a 50-foot roll of 16mm Kodachrome film that exposed half the film in one direction, and then, manually flipped over (in relative darkness), it exposed the other half for a total of 100 feet of 8mm film at 18fps. Amazing technology it was. And such a small camera too, already easily schlepped. It was the beginning of the “purseable (almost pocketable) movie camera”. (Unbeknownst to me, this idea of small yet effective {even powerful} equipment would become the mainstay of my art).

With that boyhood passion for planes, trains, and many things, I was enamoured to capture this amazing machinery of aluminum tube flight in the early 1960s. I can remember to this day projecting that “Regular 8” on the wall and the epiphany that I had, in fact, recreated a thrill and passion from that awe I felt at the airport. I knew right there and then that this would be my path in life – to impart messages of universal understanding from within my inner self. (Visual Communications).

As my path had been somewhat clearly (oxymoron) defined at that point, it was then a “simple” matter of technological edification, financial consecration, moral fortitude, and a deep inner strength. Is it possible to live a life of giving that which is heartfelt, joyful, prosperous, clear, easy and ubiquitous?

For this I do not have an answer, only a path to help me navigate the many choices in life. I am happy for the good choices I made and remorseful for the bad ones, though even a bad choice is a learning moment, so I would say that a perception of bad is in fact positive. Sprinkled with a generous amount of serendipity, I feel satisfied that so far this is a life well lived. I have dedicated myself to the study of what is it that can most effectively share this sense of awe and wonder I have for the universe.

Early on I realized the conceptual power of small but effective, incognito fly-on-the wall recorder of a wide-eyed fascination with all that is – as this all becomes history immediately and often lost forever – always though, quality was nevertheless de rigueur, a necessity for professionalism that was clearly a part of this formula to capture and communicate a fascination with everything. You will notice in this essay my desire for professionalism along with the spontaneity requirements to produce this quality against the face of expediency.

I always found myself needing equipment that was versatile and small and light. This desire for physical brevity and high quality brought me the necessity to always explore the forthcoming technologies and how they would dictate and support that sense of being there at that moment. (Fly-in-the-wall.) Along with this crazy yet simplistic desire to capture the All, it became apparent early on that retrievability would be paramount to this dream.

In the early 70s, I realized this necessity of being able to pluck my media at will, and more importantly, giving others that capability to pull content deftly with satisfaction. So in the early 70s, I finally completed the compilation of my research into a “thinkology” of the common grasp in our natural order of sorting and storing knowledge. This common base of our comprehensive understanding is obviously cultural and yet has a seemingly universal cybernetic structure that has garnered a complexity of thought that includes all that is who we are. My research from that time is still a work in progress and has become a cataloging system for audio, film, and stills called “Fluid Logic”. Fluid Logic is a voyage into the comprehensive breakdown of all that is known and not known. Its function is to catalog everything with simplicity intermingled with the massive never-ending complexity of the All.

The vast array of our existential being in this rapidly changing reality always brings to question our abilities to capture and “freeze” moments as if permanence is an antidote to our resistance for change. Change is constant. It will always humble us in the analysis of the present. (Please note that it is my observation that now does not exist, we live in that continuum of the future becoming the past constantly). Quantum understanding obviates this conjecture.

By the mid 70s, I had the privilege of working with Buckminster Fuller and his incredible ability to comprehend and communicate humanities options into our straightforward choices of Utopia or Oblivion. We are so close, and my question to self is, “How can I help tip that balance to utopia?” I had the privilege to work with Bucky’s grandson Jaime Snyder, director of the film, “Modeling the Universe”. We worked on a 16mm documentary film to composite Bucky’s arcane thoughts and eloquent vision into a film that was premiered at the brand new Cooper-Hewitt museum in New York City in 1976.

It was in the late 1970s that I was able to mix media of the still image into a moving video that I produced and directed called “It’s in Every One of Us”. I needed to express my thoughts that we are in fact in this fishbowl swimming together in our capsule called Spaceship Earth. We are bound to each other and our acknowledgement of this must be such that we allow the beauty of each other’s souls to illuminate as one. In this 5-minute video in1979, I actually created optical morphing of faces melding into the expression of the oneness that we are. I had an animation Forox Camera in my studio which opened me up to the production of animation. With this pin registered animation camera I could move the 35mm full frames hundreds of feet in one direction and back again to the exact same spot and expose various elements as needed to create seamless effects. How does one precisely composite visual elements into a smooth flowing succession of images? This video won awards in various film festivals and was shown in the Hawaii film festival as the thematic production for that week. The music was from David Pomeranz.

(http://www.personalgrowthcourses.net/video/every_one_of_us)

I also began to experiment with “in camera” special effects that gave me an ability to see the magic directly as it was being captured in real time. In my interest in optics and the science of film recording, one of my paths of exploration was understanding “Ray Optics”, the principles of how light propagates through different mediums. The transition from one medium to another begets a series of lens errors that are known as “Optical Aberrations”.   In my studies of these various classes of aberrations which include three general categories of errors – On-Axis, Off-Axis and Geometrical distortion – I realized that I could perhaps accentuate an aberration to the point of creating fantastic film imagery on site. I found one aberration to be of particular interest and decided to construct a proprietary lens system to accentuate a particular defect known as “Chromatic Aberration”. This is the particular property for lights propensity to focus wavelengths at different planes of focus, thus creating fringe colors at the edge of contrasty parts of an image.  I discovered that a magical splay of specular highlights would “chromatize” and splatter into colors of fantastic shapes from this induced chromatic aberration that I call the “Chrysanthemum Effect”. I used these lens systems in various films including a film for Dorothy Fadiman’s “I Am All of These”.

(https://vimeo.com/24929041)

The Chrysanthemum Effect was also a key element in the documentary film, “A Course in Miracles”. I was commissioned to capture the essence of light to illustrate many spiritual concepts of inner self discovery illumination. I used an Éclair NPR camera with an array of lenses including my systems for the Chrysanthemum Effect.

(https://acim-archives.org/Media/articles/film-intro.html)

It was in the early and mid-1980s that would find me with a production company that included employees and in-house equipment including a 1-inch 8-track recording studio. I love audio production and enjoyed producing original sound tracks for my many corporate videos I produced at the time. The dichotomy of my conflicting desires would bring me into choices of commercial viability versus my need to communicate that sense of awe and wonder that was and is instilled within the core of my being.

During the 80s, I worked with various development related organizations that included Save The Children, The Hunger Project, Oxfam, UNICEF, The End Hunger Network, and others. At this time, I traveled into some of humanity’s craziest displays of non-workability. I went to Somalia twice and many other countries documenting the inhumane vortices of societies’ dysfunctionalities. It brought me back into the abject poverty I had experienced in my early childhood. The same questions reared their cry, the same questions of Why?

On one of my trips, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with John Denver and various other dignitaries on a fact finding mission throughout many parts of Africa. It was at this point I and our whole camera crew were arrested for our efforts to document and help Somalia perhaps find a path of workability. I never feared for my life more than that day.

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The richness of the African cultures and animals dictated a desire to explore the sounds that were endemic to being there. I had brought with me recording equipment, and I made the best of the amazing and remote places we would find ourselves in. I brought with me that beautiful Sony TCD-5M stereo cassette recorder along with an amazing microphone that allowed for adjustments to dial in fully discrete two channels to a full mix of the two. I was able to work with sound utilizing imaging philosophies. I wanted to paint a picture of magic through the media of sound. I have a remarkable series of recordings that at one time I wanted to produce a one hour audio piece called “Sounds of the Earth”. I do have credit on one of John Denver’s albums for the audio he used from our trip to Africa.

I encourage the reader to create your own audio piece that tells a story without the picture element. The spoken word, music, sound effects and silence all synergistically combined can produce a poignant and powerful communication. It is amazing what one can learn from this exercise. Stereo audio imaging is a powerful tool that sometimes gets lost in the live phase of a production. Do it in post is the fallback de facto understanding, however I conjecture how much more the audio portion of live production gives us an added production value often missed otherwise.

Near the end of the 1980s, I built a system to produce time-lapse on the go. I actually combined a car battery and a small computer with a servo motor bolted to my Bolex reflex 16mm movie camera that were all contained within a medium sized traveling suit case I could freely cart around most anywhere. With a triple turret C-Mount on the camera, I was able to mount even my Nikon and Hasselblad lenses. And most importantly, I could mount my Chrysanthemum Effect lenses and, whoo-hoo, I was a one man time-lapse traveling band. I once spent a day on those double decker buses in Manhattan on the top deck right in the front center. I let that time-lapse go all day into the evening. Wow, what fun. In 1989, I had formulated a table to help me dial in the mathematical relationship of film running time versus reality time. I call this table “Painting with Time”. The simple formula is as follows:

t x 30 ÷ f = R

R x f÷ 30 = t

t = film/video total running time in seconds (@ 30 fps).

f = frames per minute.

R = Real-time in minutes, hours, or days.

(http://www.photovault.com/Link/Time_Compresion.html)

From these escapades to many places, I put together a short film with the same name “Painting with Time”.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwDtZVa7saE)

In the early 90s, I found myself embracing the bold new technologies we now take for granted. I bought my first version of Photoshop 2.0 and taught myself how to use that amazing program. I have scanned and enhanced over 400,000 of my images with that marvelous program. The world wide web was just coming into being, digital cameras and audio equipment came down to earth, and HD was already in action though not yet publicly accepted. I was hired by Sony to document some of their work in HD and it gave me that inspirational understanding of what was to be. I still am disappointed as to how long it took for acceptance for this wonderful new imaging science. I bemoan the fact that industry yet once again could not coalesce into a single accepted system of HD. Shame on all of you.

It was at this time that I was hired to produce a 5-minute video for LucasArts. I was able to bring to bear my Painting-with-Time and Chrysanthemum Effects into this production. I got to produce the original sound track too, and all in all, it was one of the highlights of my career.

By 1994, I had my first website up and running that eventually would get 60,000 unique visitors a day by the year 2000. (www.photovault.com)

It is now supplanted by my new website. (www.photovalet.com)

I began shooting lots of stock video clips and was able to help Thought Equity get started with lots of my footage. I love seeing where this is all going, and I am proud to be a part of this massive shift in culture. Remember all there is, is change, and I always am reminded how fleeting this all is and have learned to appreciate all the changes that are the continuum of our lives. I now have such a fun time using my Canon DSLR system to both capture stills and full HD video. In the true spirit of my fondness for keeping my equipment to a minimum, I now use my iPhone to shoot full HD time-lapse. No more schlepping my TL package around town, no more massive batteries and big computers to perform my work. I move deftly and with aplomb performing my ongoing desire to share my sense of awe and wonder for the universe.

In 2006, I was commissioned by the City of Downey and NASA to produce an 18’x 18’ mural in memory of the Columbia Space Shuttle accident. It took me two years to produce the mural, and it is displayed in the museum as a testament to always pushing the limits of exploration.

(http://www.photovault.com/Link/Universe/Spacecraft/ReusableM/PrintMosaic/ColumbiaMosaicMockUp.html)

My physical archive of over 800,000 slides and negatives is augmented by over 100,000 digital images and growing fast. Every single image and video clip has its own unique code number that functions both in the physical realm and the electronic side. I have many hours of HD video footage and am looking for a new home to market the video part of my work.

I recently finished a new video for Molly Campell Productions. It was my first shoot using only my DSLR system, and I helped create the special effects for the video.

(https://vimeo.com/121955630)

In place of my massive Forox, I now use QuickTime to deconstruct a video clip into hundreds and thousands of still images that I run through the complexities of Photoshop in ways I could never had imagined 15 years ago. I create beautiful imagery in the deconstructed form using the powerful scripting tools in Photoshop. Once completed, I reconstitute the images into a full HD QuickTime file and it is ready for prime time. I have taught myself how to upres an HD image file from a video clip and am able to print out big prints if so desired.

The miracle of these mediums continues to fascinate me, and I look forward to the constant changes that will come our way. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments or would like to discuss my services.  I wish you all the best. Namaste.

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/13787013@N00/albums)