View-Master is making a comeback at Destination PSP in Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTIN KNOWLES PHOTO/MEDIA
When you lift a pair of binoculars to your face, you see the distance drawn near, magnified. Lift a View-Master, and you see the world. Anything might appear in one of the reel’s tiny illuminated frames.
Introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the red plastic viewers and their thin cardboard disks showed up on shelves of photography stores before landing in toy stores to mesmerize kids with scenes of zoo animals, national parks, and popular cartoon characters.
Architectural photographer Martin Knowles stumbled upon one while at his grandmother’s house during Modernism Week 2018 and wondered if he could photograph and create new reels starring local wonders.
“The original was a simple, very elegant, and very durable piece of industrial design,” that walked the line between educational tool and novelty, the Vancouver, Canada-based Knowles notes. During a podcast with USModernist, he waxed poetic on the use of View-Masters by the U.S. military during World War II. The reels’ 3-D quality made them ideal for teaching anti-aircraft range estimation and identifying friendly versus unfriendly aircraft. Some reels, he says, remain classified to this day.
Offered exclusively at Destination PSP in Palm Springs, the series of modern views that Knowles mastered present classic works by midcentury modern architects. Pop them into a new viewer or an old one you’ve held onto. The design is unchanged, so any disk will light up in any stereoscopic viewer. Perched on a shelf, the set brings out the kid in anyone with an adult toy of a most innocent nature.