Interview: Ryan Colditz

fleetfoxes03_webThough the medium of stereoscopic optics have been blowing minds (and crossing eyes) since the late 1800’s, artist and designer Ryan Colditz takes the media to surprising new ends. Colditz plays with this dazzling visual trope to breath new life (and dimension) to graphic design and photography, creating a startling new aesthetic that literally manages to pop off the page. Beautiful/Decay recently discussed Ryan’s home made 3-D camera, process, inspiration, and beyond- read more after the jump!


Can you talk a little bit about how you discovered 3-D and how you began working with it?

Growing up I was surrounded by 3D artwork. My grandfather had one of those “Magic Eye” posters where you had to cross your eyes for a hidden image to ficome to life. My entire family would try–some more successful than others–to see the image “pop.” I think that early glimpse at 3D caused the gears to start turning in my head, but it wasn’t until years later when I began using the family’s stereographic viewer that I realized that I could create these alternate realities myself–in a modern context.


I then became acquainted with 3D masters and learned the technical tools for constructing a 3D image. From there I took off and started my own practice, learning by experimentation.


"2009 Coachella Large Scale Artwork"


What’s your design process as far as creating 3 dimensional images? Do you think of the image you are going to create holistically first, then go in and overlay the correct coloring later, or create both first…..?


Visualization is the key to any piece of art I create. If I cannot see the final object in my head as a cohesive piece, I am more likely to move onto the next idea rather than spend time tinkering with something doomed from the start. After I get past that initial step, I become much more liberal and experimental with my process. The next, and ultimately most important step in my process is coming up with a layout that is pleasing to the eye in a 3 dimensional context. Harmony on the X and Y and Z axis is crucial to a successful layout. I run through compositions at every conceivable angle and hierarchy, looking for the sweet spot. This is hardly a quick process, there are countless additional factors to consider that 2D images do not account for.


That being said, I prefer to do as little modification as possible when creating a 3D image, in order to convey the scene as true to life as possible. This is what I love so much about 3D and what makes it so much more of an artistic process to me. Depth and placement are crucial for the image to have proper visual balance and hierarchy.



You have to use certain colors to create 3-D images, correct? Does this limited palette ever frustrate you?


A lot of the 3D effects do rely on color information translating between our eyes and brain, so in a sense there is a limited color palette that is pleasing to the eye. At first it absolutely determined the way that I created 3D artwork, and by the end of my first project I was so upset with the outcome that I ended up selling out to a set of standardized color guidelines. Color is an added layer of information that may or may not be called for. Sometimes a color image turns out to be ten times more effective once it’s converted to black and white. There really aren’t any rules I follow for creating artwork anymore.


"2009 Coachella Large Scale Artwork"


For photography, can you talk a little bit about how you constructed your 3-D camera?


I built my own 3D digital camera partly from scrap metal purchased from Home Depot and wiring I found in Germany. My camera consists of two cameras lined up on an aluminum rod and bolted into place. The two cameras are wired to shoot at the same instant, from slightly different perspectives. The camera has ended up looking like some type of photographic bomb complete with exposed hanging wires–police officers definitely give it a double take.


"Sebastian Tellier"

"Sebastian Tellier"




What was the experience of going to Coachella like, and photographing all these amazing musicians?


I have always been a concert junkie, but to get from one side of the metal barrier to the other was an amazing feat in itself. It was really exciting shooting bands because I often wouldn’t be confined to taking the close-up shots that every 2D photographer strives for. By taking a few steps back and analyzing the stage, I was able to visualize the final 3D image before snapping. Other than that, I just had to trust that my camera would operate correctly. It was great to see bands interested in what I was doing, and they definitely made an effort to show off for the weird camera aimed their way.


I felt like I was part of the action as I was able to vibe off the bands’ performances.  I did my best to properly portray the scene I was witnessing exactly as it was happening. The results are very indicative of my own personal experience at the show. The mellow performers like Devandra have calmer more soothing qualities, where as the Band of Horses or Silversun Pickup photos are true translations of the energy on stage.


What has the reaction to your work been?

I have had a lot of positive reaction to my artwork. I get a lot of  comment regarding how real it looks and often viewers reach out and touch the paper, hoping the image really is jumping out at them. Some people have a hard time sitting still for one minute though, so I do my best to engage people to try, but 3D just isn’t for everyone.


There is something inherently magical in transforming a two dimensional image into a holographic 3-D illusion….through the manipulation of color, placement….what do you think about 3-D and how it affects the viewer?

My work requires a total investment by the viewer; he/she must connect with the illusion and decide for himself/herself if that illusion is acceptable. What the viewer doesn’t understand is that for good or bad, the piece forces the viewer to experience an emotion, and that is really all any artist is trying to achieve.


"Silversun Pickups"

"Silversun Pickups"



Have you seen any of the recent 3-D movies that came out, recently, like Coraline or My Bloody Valentine- or what do you think about them?


I have seen both movies and I think that both have qualities that warranted the 3D effect. Coraline is a perfect example of how a good story can accelerate onto the big screen because of 3D, whereas My Bloody Valentine was able to use 3D with horror to engage the audience by more visceral gore-filled scenes-that make viewing a horror movie in the theater that much more frightening. 3D is going to save the moving picture.


What other artists/designers you are inspired by, and what aspects of their work do you admire?


I am inspired by artists like Kandinsky and Rauschenberg, photographers Diane Arbus and Man Rey, and designers El Lissitsky and Storm Thorgerson. Each of these artists made amazing works in unconventional manners, and are interpreted differently with each view. A lot of themes these artists focused on come up in my own work, and it is comforting to see that a “weird” idea can have fascinating results.


What projects are you currently working on?


Right now I am focusing on 3D works that combine photography and design.


To see more work by Ryan Colditz go to

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