Are the Mountains of Kong real? Jim Naughten’s adventures in a mythical land created by the Victorian imagination allow us believe that they might be…
Jim Naughten’s latest project takes the viewer back in time to a fabled place, which may or may not have ever existed. Acting as an explorer, scientist and photographer Naughten has documented a world that existed in the popular consciousness for over a hundred years.
The Mountains of Kong can be found on printed British maps of West Africa from 1798 through to the late 1880s when they were finally declared to be non-existent. Naughten has created a series of stereoscopic images that tell a very different story as he imagines a fictitious record made for posterity and scientific purposes during an expedition of the mountain range. The resulting images are viewable in three dimensions by using the same stereoscopic technology made popular in the late 1800s which allowed Victorians to travel to the four corners of the world whilst sitting at home in their armchairs. Naughten presents us with the evidence for the existence of the mythical kingdom in irrefutable three-dimensional forms.
“In the Mountains of Kong I discovered extraordinary, otherworldly landscapes, encountered strange hitherto unknown creatures that seemed to dwell in a parallel universe. I faithfully recorded these true events with my stereoscopic camera, aping the explorers and expedition scientists and photographers of the past.
The work aims to be both engaging and playful, but also will function as a comment on the mutability of history and our ever evolving and malleable relationship with the past.” - Jim Naughten
The stereoscopic pairs are created by making two images of the same subject from slightly different perspectives, to represent a right and a left eye point of view. The stereo viewer then allows the left eye to see only the left image and the same with the right, giving the illusion of three dimensions. I use a single camera on a tripod with a sliding base to make my stereo pairs and have spent a few years perfecting the technique and building stereoscopes. Stereoscopy was invented in 1839 by Charles Wheatstone who was trying to understand binocular vision. When combined with photography it quickly became the wonder of the age, the Victorian equivalent of TV or the internet. It reached its height of fame and popularity in the 1880s when Victorians could study stereo cards of far flung corners of the world from the the comfort of their living room.