In 2011, I discovered that when I scan lenses on a flat bed scanner I found that every lens has its own unique refractive 'fingerprint'. Since then I have been scanning lenses of friends, lenses in the California Museum of Photography archives (the largest collection of historic and contemporary lenses on the west coast), and will be scanning lenses at Freestyle Photographic next week.
I have been scanning the lenses at 1600 dpi so that I can make prints that are 24” x 24”. And I have blown up several of the lense images to be 44” square. They print very well large. Santa Barbara Museum of Art just purchased one for their permanent collection.
I have met with physics professors at Pomona College and Harvey Mudd College to better understand the refractive phenomena that is occurring. Dr. Alma Zook at Pomona was extremely helpful. Her father developed coatings for periscope prisms for the U.S. military during WWII and then went on to establish a business of generating lens coatings which he pursued for the rest of his life. She helped me understand a little about the colors I was getting and how the shapes of the refractions were mirroring the internal structure of the lenses although she said she would have to take apart the lenses to truly understand the structure of them. Dr. David Tanenbaum, Chair of Physics and Astronomy at Pomona College said that he would have to take apart the scanner to better understand the phenomena. Dr. Peter Saeta, Chair of the Physics Department at Harvey Mudd College, helped me understand the banding that I was seeing in some lens scans, explaining that the alternating dark/light bands were Newton rings caused by two adjacent lens surfaces with different curvatures.