FLAAR has decades of experience in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, studying especially the flora and fauna related to mythology, iconography, epigraphy, murals, painted ceramics, and other forms of Mayan art.
Dr. Hellmuth has two seasons experience in the archaeology of Peru (once for a Harvard project; the second for a Yale project). But his focus is definitely on Mesoamerica, including the Aztec, Mixtec, Toltec, Zapotec, and especially the Olmec, Classic Veracruz and Teotihuacan, since these three cultures had trade routes deep into Central America, thus bringing interaction with the Mayan civilizations of Guatemala.
The success of our cultural studies is in part based on our focus on gaining experience in high-resolution photography already 40+ years ago, and in the current era of course expanding into 3D scanning and 3D imaging software (and printers).
Due to the high resolution of our cameras, we have done research on what kinds of printer technology is the best to reproduce these images. We had Leica already in 1962, Hasselblad by 1966, 4x5” and up to 8x10” by 1997, and 28 megapixels already by the same year, 1997!
The tri-linear scanning back (1997) could take an image one meter high by six meters long already at this early date. Our evaluations of what inkjet printer was best for images this size has continued for 17 years to the point that the FLAAR Reports on wide-format inkjet printers are read by over half a million people a year. Dr Hellmuth is consultant for digital imaging technology in Dubai, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and throughout China.
We are combining our experience in digital imaging together with experience with Mayan civilization to create a unique presentation format for people of all ages. During December 2015 and all through 2016 we will be presenting our friendly, happy, Mayan cartoon characters to the world.
In today’s multi-cultural world it is essential to have capable individuals who are bi-lingual. So within our office we focus on Mayan languages and Spanish (FLAAR itself is multi-lingual; you will hear up to four languages being spoken within the office). In this set of photographs you see our Mayan speaking personnel. They specialize in knowledge of local utilitarian plants, plus they also know the animals and insects and reptiles of Guatemala.
Our remarkable photographic archive of plants and animals is about 45% photos by Nicholas and 45% photos by Sofia Monzon. The other 10% are by Eduardo Sacayon, Jaime Leonardo and our newly hired team (shown below).
Of Nicholas and Sofia, each have both a scientific manner combined with a fine art photo style. Each has their own individual method (Sofia favors Canon, Nicholas favors Nikon but also uses Canon) yet they share many aspects (namely the goal of achieving the most remarkable in-depth, back-lit image possible).
For years FLAAR used 4x5 and 8x10 traditional cameras, (three) Leica and (three) Hasselblad cameras. When the digital era arrived, Nicholas evaluated Leaf, Phase One, Kodak, and Hasselblad medium format digital camera backs in past years.
This is Erick and Melanny, graphic designers, who are moving into doing more photography of flora and fauna.
Andrea Mendoza, student of industrial graphic design, does our 3D scanning, studies on 3D software, as well as research on the world of 3D imaging.
Here are Vivian Diaz, Marcella Sarti and Linda. They do research on flora and fauna and prepare the extensive bibliographies of every plant and animal species that Dr Hellmuth wishes to study.
The present stage of our storyboards is featuring animals. However we have decades of experience doing high-resolution photography of the rare flowers of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
We specialize in studying utilitarian plants, used by the Maya for thousands of years.
Dr Nicholas Hellmuth has lived in
- Beijing 6 weeks, as consultant for a Chinese company.
- Osaka, Japan 6 months, as a visiting research professor at the Japanese National Museum of Ethnography.
- Zurich, Switzerland, three years, with his Swiss girlfriend Suzanne Schmidt.
- Graz, Austria eight years, with Suzanna Reisinger helping in his research.
- and Germany nine years with Andrea David assisting research and office organization.
But, the entire time he was also doing field trips and studies throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.
Nicholas is tri-lingual, English, Spanish, and German, and he can read and understand basic Italian and basic French (but does not speak these two languages).
Undergraduate degree, Harvard; Master’s degree Brown University; then three different post-graduate research positions at Yale University. PhD is from the University of Graz (Karl-Franzens Universitaet). Since then he was Visiting research professor of wide-format inkjet printing simultaneously at two universities for about five years: Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala, and Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Previously he was a research professor in digital photography at Rollins College (Florida) and then at Brevard Community College (Florida). All these years he also was doing studies throughout Mesoamerica.
Nicholas has lectured in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama City, Dubai, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Zurich as well as at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, Berkeley, etc. He lectures on 3D printing options, printing on textiles, digital photography, Maya archaeology, plants and animals of the Maya areas of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras.
Dr Hellmuth has been a consultant to companies both large and small in many parts of the world, including being a consultant on wide-format inkjet printing technology and marketing to a Fortune 500 company for four years.
Dr Hellmuth is a consultant and evaluator for technology trade show organizers in Shanghai, Istanbul, Dubai, and Johannesburg. We were recently a consultant for one of the largest chocolate companies in Europe (Nicholas raises Theobroma cacao and Theobroma bicolor in his own ethnobotanical research garden).
FLAAR also raises bees (Meliponia), wasps, and butterflies. We do research on spiders of diverse sizes and structural arrangements of webs.
The six level FLAAR office includes a research library on flora and fauna. Our main library on Maya archaeology is on loan (now for over 20 years) to the Museo Popol Vuh on the campus of the nearby Universidad Francisco Marroquin.
Dr Hellmuth and his team recently packed and shipped about 9,000 books to form a new Mesoamerican research library in Guatemala: for students, scholars, and visitors to Guatemala. This impressive library includes anthropology (ethnology, ethnography, linguistics, ethnohistory), archaeology, iconography, epigraphy, and linguistics of the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Classic Veracruz cultures. This library will be organized and managed by La Ruta Maya Foundation.
FLAAR began the FLAAR Reports on wide-format inkjet printing workflow equipment, inks, and software based on our many previous years experience with large-format film-based photography. Then digital cameras came out, and the first large-format digital scanning back company selected Nicholas to be one of their two evaluators. So already in 1997-1998 we had a 28 megapixel digital camera, producing files over 240 MB in file size (actually could produce even larger, but remember, this is 1998). So Encad provided us a 36” wide-format printer so we could print these enormous panoramas and rollouts. So we began to evaluate this printer.
We started in wide-format in these years (1997-1999), literally learned everything ourselves by trial and error, starting from scratch, and yet were known worldwide by 2004, in large part thanks to a corporate research grant of six figures spread out over four years).
With our plant and animal research, it has been similar. We start with initiative and moxie, work 14-hour days for years, and gradually we have become a leading source of knowledge of utilitarian plants of Mesoamerica. Our flora and fauna web sites are on page one of most pertinent Google searches. For many plants we have more information than scientific botanical web sites funded by millions of dollars.
Our goal for 2015 onward is to impact the world with our concept of Mayan focused characterizations. We have been doing background research for many years, preparing storyboards, and now will gradually launch our products. As soon as funding is available, we will move from storyboards to animation. In other words, based on our knowledge of how to learn the basics of a field of endeavor, and then improve our work, we can rise to a worldwide status in cartoons in the coming years.
We continue our research, evaluations, and reviews of wide-format inkjet digital printing technology and applications; we already have our plane tickets to attend Sign Middle East (SGI 2016) in Dubai and APPPPEXPO 2016 in Shanghai. But as you will notice during the coming months, we have worked already for many years to lay the groundwork for our launch of our Mayan cartoon characters.
Since most of the people working at FLAAR are students, they often transfer from their local university to a university in another country (to experience that other culture). Here are a few of our recent employees who are now elsewhere in the world.
Marcella Sarti is also an illustrator, both a scientific illustrator and a cartoon illustrator (in addition to doing photography). Josefina specializes in scientific illustrations of all species of felines, especially jaguars. Vivian also is a cartoon illustrator (in addition to having extensive knowledge as a botanist and zoologist).
Updated February 26, 2016.
First posted during Thanksgiving week, November 2015.