Barry Rothstein

WIDE-EYED. Barry Rothstein holds up some of his 3D books for kids. He's giving some away to trick-or-treaters this year, hoping they'll be as thrilled as he is about the scientific art of 3D imagery. 

Three-dimensional artist Barry Rothstein’s photographs can capture the curvature of a pumpkin or the threatening spines on a cactus, and he’s sharing some of his images — and pairs of 3D glasses — with trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.

“They call me the Crazy 3D Guy,” Rothstein, 65, said about neighborhood children who know him and his house near the corner of Ohio Avenue and Sixth Street because he hands out books, cards or other 3D goodies — along with candy — to young costumed revelers.

Rothstein also creates a spooky 3D front patio demonstration, using Halloween imagery as a way to teach youngsters a little bit about the art and science of three-dimensional photography.

Rothstein specializes in phantogram photography — a particular kind of 3D optical illusion created by taking two flat images and distorting them to appear, to a viewer wearing special glasses from a particular vantage point, to recess into or rise out of a picture.

The man, a past president of the Los Angeles 3D Club, is considered an expert when it comes to phantograms. He teaches workshops and gives lectures at National Stereoscopic Association and International Stereoscopic Union events, in addition to putting out a weekly blog.

He’s published five children’s books of his work, with his wife Betsy penning the written portions using her expertise as a former schoolteacher and naturalist at El Dorado Park. The books are focused on nature and wildlife, but they also explain much about the creation of phantogram images.

Always passionate about photography, the longtime Long Beach resident said it wasn’t until 2003 that he ventured into the world of 3D art. That was when he stumbled upon a stereoscope at an antique store and became fascinated by the way people in the 1800s and early 1900s used the pre-radio, pre-television devices to experience 3D sights from around the world.

“(We) see the world in 3D in all our waking moments, but we’ve become entirely accustomed to photography as almost exclusively a two-dimensional medium,” he said. “For me, no more. Since that day, my focus has been to discover and produce images that thrill me and thrill others.”

Rothstein said he keeps creating more 3D photographs because of the “wow” reactions he gets from people who cannot resist trying to reach out and touch what they see.

He hopes that his images help people see the world in a new way.

“Being exposed to another viewpoint is valuable under any circumstances,” he said. “This is exposure to a different way of looking at things.”

To that end, Rothstein — who primarily sells his books at science museums and gift shops — has donated thousands of leftover books to area schools, including Washington Middle School, and various charities. And, he’s always generous with neighbors.

On Halloween night, whether he’s showcasing some disembodied heads or a few phantograms of black cats, everyone who stops by the Rothstein home will get a book and be able to pair their costume with some cardboard spectacles.

“My art is hiding behind silly red and blue glasses,” Rothstein said, noting that putting on a pair is something nobody minds doing on Halloween night.

Rothstein’s books also are available for sale at MADE by Millworks, 240 Pine Ave. For details, visit http://barryrothstein3d.com.

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