Immersive photography

Decoding of a medium

"... after all the world is around me, not in front of me"
Maurice Merlau-Ponty(1)


These notes on immersive photography were made over a period of about 15 years, in tandem with my activity as a landscape photographer.
In 1997, inside a hidden folder of a new Power Book, I discovered a file that was not really a photograph or a movie, and that could be dragged showing the 360 ​​degree view of an Apple store. (2)
I was immediately fascinated by the "game", I wanted to understand how it had been done to be able to make it in my turn.
Thus my passion for immersive photography was born, and at the same time I began to reflect on the nature of this new medium.
These pages have no claim to be a scientific text, there are certainly inaccuracies, and, given that in recent years technology has developed very rapidly following the fashion of "virtual reality", there are probably some gaps.
Furthermore, I remain mainly in the field of "photographic", that is, static image: I consider 360 ° video to be an additional and different medium.
March, 2019


By immersive (3) we mean a photograph with a 360° horizontal shooting angle, which is displayed without distortion only on the computer monitor (or mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones or VR viewers) using specific software.

A photographic image, taken with a 360° angle of view, which is displayed as a print or on the monitor, and which presents both the front and the back to the viewer at the same time, is simply called panoramic photography (flat panorama) or panorama if is set up in a circular setting.

The immersive photo therefore needs an apparatus for its visualization, and is necessarily an interactive image.

A group of immersive photos connected together by links is called Virtual Tour. Every single immersive photo in a virtual tour is called a node.

The history of immersive photography is made up of three overlapping generators:

a) The curvilinear perspective in art history and the studies for the projection of the sphere on the plane (in geometry and cartography), which lead to the development of the technique for the (perspective) distortion of the image.

b) The panorama as the first pictorial representation of the 360° vision, and then the panoramic photography and the evolution of its technique.

c) Virtual reality, from the Pantoscope to the flight simulators, up to the HMD (Head Mount Display) viewers.


Toni Garbasso, The Magician and his projections - 2011

1) Maurice Merlau-Ponty L'oil et l'esprit - 1964 (p.34)
2) The Apple store in Los Angeles photographed by Scott Highton
3) I have adopted the name of "Immersive photography", but the term is still under discussion. See "The nature of the medium: names"

Most of the images presented here have been found online and accumulated over the years: many of them have lost their origin. As you can clearly see these web pages (and the images included) have no economic return, but authors or copyright holders who felt defrauded of their property, can contact me and I will immediately remove them.

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© Toni Garbasso