Robert J. Rothfarb
Interactive Telecommunications Program
New York University


CLICK is a multimedia application that allows a user to explore an intimate virtual darkroom space. By experimenting with various darkroom photography techniques using a 3D, photorealistic Quicktime VR interface, the user is confronted with the issue of the changing meaning of photographic images.

The Experience

CLICK is an interactive artwork composed of two rooms. The main room is a darkroom and the other is an adjacent office. Both spaces have many objects in them but the overall feeling is of a small, intimate space.

The main display consists of a large scene of the darkroom and a smaller window containing a Quicktime VR panoramic movie of the same space. A user explores the rooms and the devices in them by clicking on areas of the large scene display or by using the Quicktime VR interface. Clicking and dragging the mouse on the Quicktime VR movie causes the movie to swing to a corresponding view. When the user releases the mouse click, the large scene also changes to match this view. This becomes an easy and intuitive way to explore the space as the user can pan up or down, left or right, and can also zoom in and out.

View 3D Quicktime VR from CLICK

Download the latest Quicktime VR player
While in the darkroom, the user can:
  • expose prints with an enlarger
  • develop prints in the darkroom sink
  • examine negatives and prints that have already been developed
  • use the light table to view slide still images and Quicktime videos
  • use the Kirlian device to expose an image
  • view a collection of Kirlian photographs
  • encounter and explore an Aleph*
*I am inspired a great deal by Jorge Luis Borges story of the Aleph. After reading it, I recalled several science fiction stories which have also depicted this concept. In particular, the original STAR TREK TV series episodes called "The City On The Edge Of Forever" and "The Library" seemed to be inspired in part by Borges' work. Additionally, the author Frank Herbert has devised elaborate storylines about beings who have Aleph-like qualities in his books, Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment.

When I make images using digital techniques, I often feel like I'm tapping into a vision of a place I have never been to or a time from the past or the future. To me, an Aleph is a dynamic energy object which is a window onto other times, --past, present, and future, and onto other realities and dimensions. I have created the Alephs in CLICK using narrow rectangular-shaped Quicktime and Quicktime VR movies. Some Alephs are horizontally oriented, others are oriented vertically. The Alephs which are standard Quicktime movies display a series of images of places and events, one dissolving to the next. The Alephs which are Quicktime VR movies allow the user to look into and explore the world the Aleph is a window onto. Alephs appear as windows, hanging in space in various places in the darkroom after the user has explored the room and the objects for a while.

The office is a very small room with a computer, desk, many books, and papers. The computer has a starfield screen saver active on its display. When the user (uses the mouse and) pushes or pulls "the mouse" in a direction, the virtual computer's display begins to slow a slideshow of photographic and synthetic images. Images are also mapped onto all planar surfaces of the computer chasis and monitor and the user can interactively control the speed of the blast of images that rapidly appear. This is my idea of how the computer, as an extension of creativity, is a digital Aleph. This glimpse of the computer as Aleph is a way to view the juxtaposed real/unreal/photographic/synthetic image in the context of an evolving digital-visual literacy.


CLICK is meant to be experienced by one person at a time. Often, when someone is in a darkroom, they are by themselves. CLICK tries to create a similar, intimate, solitary, experience for the user.

There must be low ambient light around the installation. This is necessary for two reasons: first, to create the ambience of a darkroom where a person's eyes are dilated, thereby giving the ability to see image details even at such low lighting levels, and secondly, the 3D images of the interactive application have been rendered for optimal viewing at low ambient lighting.

It's in the darkness that a person's imagination is uninhibited. It's in the darkness that dreams, memories, and revelations collide. It's when alchemy can occur.

CLICK includes full screen computer graphic and photograhic imagery. It is intended to be viewed on a large color monitor in low ambient lighting conditions. The images are vibrant and the application is responsive. CLICK utilizes a multi-modal interface which combines point and click navigation with Quicktime VR exploration and control.

Ambient sounds of water swirling in a rinse bath and down the sink drain provide the mood for the piece and there are various sound effects when object interaction occurs. Other ambient music changes based on the user's activities.

Potential Cultural Impact

Will photography as we have known it become an artifact? Already, there are many image-making processes which have fallen out of use as they are replaced by newer technologies. The world is becoming more digital and as this happens, traditional photographic techniques may become a thing of the past. CLICK gives the user a chance to experience new "photographic" digital image techniques along side with the lost parapsychological / experimental process of Kirlian photography.

Digital photorealistic images of places that do not exist can easily be created now. Kirlian photography is a process which captures the unseen "aura" of living things. An image of a real place can be developed in a virtual darkroom. A "real" Kirlian effect photograph can be created with a virtual Kirlian device. CLICK allows the participant to experience this visual and conceptual confusion and to hopefully gain insight into the changing meaning of the relationship of the photographic image to reality.

By creating a visually believable digital space, I hope to increase people's awareness of the fact that the lines between photography and synthesized digital imagery have blurred sufficiently so that it will soon be easily possible for people to confuse reality with virtual reality.


This project was an individual effort that I worked on from the fall of 1994 to spring 1996. Initiallly conceived of as a short animation, I had created some motion tests of walkthroughs of the darkroom space. The project evolved into an interactive multimedia work.

The target audience of the project is an individual who is interested in experiencing an intimate digital space and who is open to the idea that, photography, as a medium of illusion, has transcended to another level.

The aesthetic goal of the project is to present images of high photorealistic quality which simultaneously seduce, confuse, and comfort the viewer.

The technical goal for this project is to create a dynamic digital space that can be easily accessible on a desktop computer. The goal for the user interface of the project is to utilize a more active navigational mode than the standard point and click interface. By coupling Quicktime VR panoramic digital video movies with the point and click GUI standard, CLICK provides an example of a working multi-modal user interface.

The modeling was initially done in Alias on an SGI Indigo 2. The geometry was was then ported over to 3D Studio on a Pentium 90 system. 3D Studio was used to create the two complete rooms for CLICK as well as the main Quicktime VR interface. Quicktime VR authoring was done on Power Macintosh systems. The application was developed using Macromedia Director. Image-editing was done in Adobe Photoshop. CLICK is available on a mixed-mode CD-ROM for both platforms.

© 1996-2001 Robert J. Rothfarb