Photographer Henry Reichhold Uses 3D Photogrammetry and 3D Printing to Capture London in Bronze

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Photographer Henry Reichhold

Photographer Henry Reichhold

As with most advanced technology, photography used to be something that only the wealthy could afford; however the 20th century is when that would change. Eventually the prices of cameras dropped and more of us were able to photograph our lives and keep physical reminders of our memories. By the time the 21st century was kicking off cameras were in the process of switching from film to digital, and a boom in photography would be the result. These days, with the inclusion of inexpensive cameras in modern smartphones, people are taking more pictures than ever before. In fact, it is estimated that in 2015 a staggering one trillion pictures were taken globally, and that number is only going to rise as smartphones continue to become more popular.

While there have been a few models of 3D cameras available in the past few years, for the most part 3D images need to be captured with expensive cameras that don’t actually capture things in three dimensions, they simply trick our eyes into seeing it that way. But true 3D images are possible thanks to photogrammetry, a process of converting several 2D images into a single 3D image with advanced software. As with photography before it, this was often something reserved for a select group of people. But as camera technology continues to advance rapidly, 3D photography is becoming more common and artists and photographers are exploring its use in a variety of unique and interesting ways.

From 3D image to bronze relief.

From 3D image to bronze relief.

This week, London-based photographer Henry Reichhold is unveiling a new installation at Heathrow Airport that mixes emerging technology like 3D photography and 3D printing with more traditional manufacturing processes like cold cast bronze. The installation is called Metamorphosis, and it captures the architecture and the people of London and freezes the moment in detailed bronze reliefs. The captured scenes include famous landmarks like Piccadilly Circus as well as average parks and bus stops throughout the city. The exhibit will be on display for three months in one of the business terminals in London’s iconic international airport.

The Metamorphosis installation at Heathrow airport in London.

The Metamorphosis installation at Heathrow airport in London.

“This exhibition sets out to use a variety of technologies to enable its artworks to merge London’s fantastic architecture with the people who fill its streets. The project goes far beyond the capture of static objects and challenges preconceptions on how we use photogrammetry. The result is a whole new art form – all from your camera. From Piccadilly Circus to the bus depot and picnics in the park, this exhibition is all about our people in our city, always changing, always fascinating,” said Reichhold.

The picnic.

The picnic.

Reichhold captured his scenes from the streets of London using an advanced Nikon D5 camera that was able to take hundreds of images extremely quickly. Using photogrammetry, it typically takes up to 200 images to create a highly detailed 3D photograph. That is easy for static objects like buildings or statues, but moving people make that much harder. In order to capture enough detailed photographs to create a 3D image, Reichhold employed the Nikon D5’s high-speed photography function that allows it to capture up to 140 images in about 10 seconds. He then fed all of those images into Autodesk ReMake software, formerly known as Autodesk Memento, so transform the 2D pixels into 3D triangles.

The resulting images are further refined using ArtCAM Pro, a software package that converts 3D images into digital models of molds. Reichhold then employed about 20 Ultimaker 2 Extended 3D printers to print out all of the parts of a mold large enough to turn the 3D images into 3D sculptures. He notes that 3D printing was performed by Ultimaker 2 Extended, MyMiniFactory and 3DFilaPrint. To make them in bronze, with casting by PangoStudios, he used a cold cast bronze process that mixes metal powder with a resin material. Once the resins set the resulting sculpture is virtually indistinguishable from traditional foundry cast bronze but is considerably faster and less expensive to produce. The entire process of casting the bronze reliefs took Reichhold about five days to complete.

London architecture in bronze

London architecture in bronze

While this is the first time that he has worked with 3D photographs, 3D printing and the cold bronze process, Reichhold is no stranger to photographing London. He has produced several well-received collections of photographs of the iconic city, and displayed them for the world to see in London’s Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. They are located before security in the departures zone, so no passports or boarding passes are required to see the exhibition. You can visit the installation starting July 19th and continuing for three months. You can find out more information about Reichhold and his photography on his website. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Art Installation forum over at


Cast from 3D printed molds and polished by PangoStudios [Image: PangoStudios]

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