Mountains of Kong

Take an expedition to the mythical Mountains of Kong

An expedition into the fantastical Mountains of Kong is set to entrance readers if a new fundraising campaign is successful. The catch – the mountain range which was famous for more than a century never actually existed.

Jim Naughten has launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn his Mountains of Kong series of stereoscopic images into a 3D photo book.

For an artist known for reanimating history, the story of a fictional mountain range featured on the finest maps of the world for more than 100 years presented a unique opportunity.

“I love making stereoscopic cards and if I could, what I would really love is to go back in time and do an expedition,” says Naughten. “Obviously I can’t do that but then this story came out and I thought maybe it could work.”

The resulting ‘expedition’ images went on show at the Michael Hoppen gallery last autumn.

Now Naughten is working with Hoop Design to transform them into a 3D photo book.

It will contain 35 stereoscopic images of the phantom mountain range and its flora and fauna, alongside maps, essays, and a folding 3D viewer.

Ammonite © Jim Naughten

A false discovery

First ‘discovered’ by Scottish explorer Mungo Park in 1798, the Mountains of Kong ran from Guinea in West Africa continuing eastwards connecting to the also fictitious Mountains of the Moon.

During the following 100 years explorers returned with wild tales of an impassible mountain range.

They told stories of ‘pink, snow capped’ mountains ‘flowing with gold’ and teeming with strange exotic animals. As the tales grew so did the mountains’ size and stature on maps of Africa.

Finally, in 1889, French explorer Louis Binger returned from his expedition and burst the bubble – they did not exist.

“In my Mountains of Kong I breath fresh life in to the myth by documenting an imaginary expedition to the phantom mountain range,” says Naughten.

Colobus © Jim Naughten

History in flux

Naughten describes the project as a ‘convergence’ of several things at once – working with stereoscopic for Animal Kingdom and Human Anatomy and looking for a fine art project.

“I am always thinking about what I would like to see on a gallery wall. What images would I absolutely like to make?

“I think my favourite images are stereoscopic cards from the mid 1800s. They are so peculiar and beguiling, these three-dimensional trips into someone’s past.”

In Mountains of Kong Naughten acts as explorer, scientist and photographer, using the stereoscopic technique that was at the height of its popularity in the 1800s.

“At that time three-dimensional stereoscopic images of strange exotic lands allowed Victorians to explore the four corners of the world from the comfort of their own living room.

“It was the internet and TV of the time. What better way to explore the Mountains of Kong?

“The work aims to be both engaging and playful, but also functions as a comment on the mutability of historical fact. The past appears to be in a constant state of flux, with endless revisions and alterations.

“Perhaps the elusive Mountains of Kong will one day rise again.”

Deer © Jim Naughten

Mountains of Kong

The stereoscopic images were created in Scotland and Wales as well as some ‘fantastic’ natural history museums.

Naughten describes the Natural History Museum as a ‘meditative space’ to work in, particularly after hours.

“Colours were added to enhance the mythical nature, and aquatic and non-African animals added to menagerie.

“Anything goes in the Mountains of Kong.”

The book includes a foreword by photography curator Susan Bright, a historical essay by Jon Loades-Carter and a text on stereoscopy by Denis Pellerin, director of the London Stereoscopic Company.

This will be Naughten’s third collaboration with Hoop Design.

Animal Kingdom was successfully funded through Kickstarter. It was published by Pretsel which also commissioned a follow-up Human Anatomy.

He also has two previously published books, Re enactors and Conflict and Costume.

“This is my second Kickstarter. I did one for Animal Kingdom and we reached the target really quickly, this one has taken a little bit longer. Apparently it is a lot more competitive and crowded than it used to be.”

However he is ‘confident’ about hitting his target.

Insects © Jim Naughten

Hoop Design

Hoop Design shares Naughten’s passion for the stereoscopic medium.

“The challenge we are up against with stereoscopic photography books is their production is more complicated and the costs are greater than a standard book, making them a less attractive option for big publishers that are profit driven,” it says on the Kickstarter page.

“We feel it is important these type of art books, which are lovingly crafted and considered, from the Japanese binding to the printing screen on the photographs not to mention the built-in-3D viewer, continue to have a place in bookshops.

“We make these books with no profit in mind, simply the desire to create something that is well thought out and beautiful to look at.”

Hoop Design is already familiar with the complex process of making a stereoscopic book and viewer.

“Through the production of our other stereoscopic titles, we have built a relationship with a printer and already have a prototype book for Mountains of Kong, greatly reducing the risk of any hiccups during the production stage.

“We are determined and exited to make this, our third stereoscopic book, a reality.”

Back the campaign

To back the project visit the Kickstarter page.

Pledges can be from as little as £1. Anyone pledging £25 will receive a copy of the book. Higher pledge rewards include gallery prints and stereoscopic card sets.

If the book is published, Naughten hopes to hold another exhibition of the series.

Main image: King of Kong © Jim Naughten

Jim Naughten will be taking over Spectrum Photographic’s Instagram from May 21 to May 25.

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