Seeing the World Through 3-D Glasses

August 21, 2015
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After a long career as an art director working on rock album covers, Joel Zimmerman, pictured here with his wife Cynthia in China, now creates 3-D images from his photographs. PHOTOS COURTESY J. ZIMMERMAN



AS AN ARTIST, Joel Zimmerman has worked in many different mediums, including painting, photography and advertising. His works have been seen in art galleries and on album covers for well-known bands, but never in the way they are currently being displayed at the Wall branch of the Monmouth County Library.

His latest interest is 3-D photography, and an exhibit of his works, “Enter the Third Dimension: 3-D Photography by Joel Zimmerman,” will be on display at the library branch through Aug. 31. In order to get the full effect, the viewer must wear a pair of red/cyan anaglyph glasses, which are provided at the library. These glasses have one red lens and one green-blue lens, which allow the viewer to see two images of the same subject from two different perspectives, and the result is a three-dimensional image.

“I don’t use a 3-D camera, which has two lenses,” he said. “I take two pictures from slightly different perspectives and combine them using Photoshop. When you stand in front of a piece, it’s a totally different experience than you would normally get from a photograph. Some go deep and some come out at you.”

One that certainly comes out at the viewer is a flower that was photographed straight on. The longer the viewer looks at the flower, the closer the pointed center seems to be, appearing to easily be within reach.


The 3-D effect causes the horse’s head to follow the viewer from left to right.

A photo of a knight on horseback is interesting in its own way. When the viewer moves slightly left or right, the horse’s head appears to follow each way. And when the glasses are put on, a simple photo of a dining room looks as realistic as if you were actually in the room.

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Zimmerman has experimented with different art forms over the years, and two years ago decided to take an image and convert it to 3-D. He displayed some of his works in a local art gallery, unsure what the reaction would be.

“You never know which ones are going to be successful,” said the Marlboro resident. “I saw the reaction and it was something unique. Although people have been doing 3-D for years, they were so taken with the whole thing. Once you put on the glasses, it takes a few seconds for your brain to adjust. The more time you give to any photo, the more dimension and effect you get out of it. Unlike most gallery shows, nobody wanted to leave.”

On display at the library in Wall Township are about 20 large pieces stretched on canvas, including train tracks that appear to change direction as the viewer moves and a snake that becomes too close for comfort. The photos are not covered by glass so there is no reflection to distract the viewer.

“It’s great having my work in a gallery, but the nice thing about the library is that kids will see it,” he said.

Originally from Brooklyn, Zimmerman and his wife Cynthia moved to New Jersey to raise their two daughters, who are now grown. He began his career working at an advertising agency before joining the Army. When he left the service and was looking for work, Zimmerman was hired as a temporary employee at CBS Records, where he was to fill in for someone who was on vacation. That temp job turned into a 25-year career at CBS Records and later at Sony Music, where he became an art director. He worked with illustrators and photographers to create album packages for some major recording artists, including The Allman Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Terrence Blanchard, Train, Philip Glass and Keb’ Mo. Zimmerman worked closely with Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for the work he did on the band’s Vitalogy album.

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“It was exciting,” he said. “I met with recording artists and discussed what they wanted. It was very creative work. Some artists don’t care that much but Pearl Jam was deeply involved.”

As art director, Zimmerman organized photo shoots and press runs, which often took him all over the world.

“It was a great job and I was very lucky,” he said. “It was a lot of creative work.”

Now that he’s retired, Zimmerman spends his days walking through parks and woods in all kinds of weather, always carrying his camera and looking for that perfect shot. He has also gotten back into painting, his latest work influenced by the abstracttonalism of George Inness and J.M.W. Turner.

“I just put paint on canvas not knowing what I’m doing,” he said. “Then it turns into a seascape or landscape.”

Where does Zimmerman see his creative talents taking him next?

“I would like to write short stories or screenplays,” he said. “I think of all the great writers and realize I know all the same words they know. We have the same tools to make people laugh or scared. It’s just a matter of arrangement. That fascinates me.”

The Wall Township branch of the Monmouth County Library is located at 2700 Allaire Road.

By Mary Ann Bourbeau


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