Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson

My aim has been too move beyond the traditional photographic rectangular frame and create images that would surround the viewer and draw them in. I began with commercial sports photography and then worked to make my flat images into an immersive experienced. I created a 360 degree vertical circle with Polaroids scotch taped together. The two Panoramas, “The Nursing Home” and “Venice” were my earliest efforts.
I began doing multiple image panoramic photographs, beginning in 1979 that were often about 180 degrees but would be shown flat. In the early images I did all the matching of prints in the darkroom myself. Eventually I used the computer to merge the images digitally.
I was always interested in large scale. I wanted the viewer to be engrossed in my image and instead of feeling bigger or superior to it. Such large prints, mostly 10-18 feet long, required an exacting technique. Eventually some images contained as many as 50 individual photographs. When “The Nursing Home” was shown in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, it was 15’ high by 100’ long.
In 1979 I was not aware of anyone else doing such work. But ideas are always “in the air.” As I discovered later, the concept of the viewer being surrounded by a 360 degree scene dated back at least to the Gettysburg Cyclorama from the late 1800s.
I may not have had as original an idea as I thought at the time, but I believe myself to be one of the earliest photographers exploring the over-scale panoramic style.