Page 1

AN

ATLAS OF INFRARED PLATES OF

THE UNSEEN COMPILED FOR

THE LEAGUE OF CREATIVE INFRARED PHOTOGRAPHERS

EDWARD THOMPSON


My uncle had returned to his engrossing ideas and had already forgotten my risky words: I say ‘risky’ because the scholar’s mind could never understand the matters of the heart. But fortunately, the vital question of the document took precedence. Just before performing his critical experiment, Professor Lidenbrock’s eyes were throwing sparks out through his glasses. His hands trembled as he picked the old parchment up again. He was profoundly excited. Finally he coughed loudly, and in a solemn voice, calling out successively the first letter of each word, then the second, he dictated the following series to me: mmessunkaSenrA.icefdoK.segnittamurtn ecertserrette,rotaivsadua,ednecsedsadne lacartniiiluJsiratracSarbmutabiledmek meretarcsilucoYsleffenSnl Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne

11


My uncle had returned to his engrossing ideas and had already forgotten my risky words: I say ‘risky’ because the scholar’s mind could never understand the matters of the heart. But fortunately, the vital question of the document took precedence. Just before performing his critical experiment, Professor Lidenbrock’s eyes were throwing sparks out through his glasses. His hands trembled as he picked the old parchment up again. He was profoundly excited. Finally he coughed loudly, and in a solemn voice, calling out successively the first letter of each word, then the second, he dictated the following series to me: mmessunkaSenrA.icefdoK.segnittamurtn ecertserrette,rotaivsadua,ednecsedsadne lacartniiiluJsiratracSarbmutabiledmek meretarcsilucoYsleffenSnl Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne

11


FOREWORD I’m four years old. I can’t get to sleep because of the lights. I call to my parents asking them to turn them off but there are no lights on in the room. Years later I’m diagnosed as having an optical anomaly, a cluster of lights at the centre of my field of vision, like a television snowstorm but brightly coloured. I’ve learned to make them disappear, but I can see them when I want to.

12

The infrared spectrum was discovered on February 11th 1800 at Observation House, Slough, England by Sir William Herschel. He’d been experimenting with filters to better see sunspots through his telescope. Using a prism he separated a beam of light into a spectrum and measured the temperatures of the varying colours it revealed. He then measured beyond the red, a space where there was no visible light, and found that this area was the hottest of all. He had discovered the infrared spectrum. Infrared-sensitive photographic emulsions were made widely available from the 1930s and the work produced on this strange film has been far-reaching and diverse. There were over 1,800 documented uses of the film in aerial photography, forensics, sciences, botany, palaeontology, graphic arts, spectrography and astronomy. It seems that once scientists were aware they could expose things beyond our visual perception, there was no realm that infrared photography did not try to reveal – from experiments on tropical fish attempting to document their perception of infrared wavelengths to far-reaching astrophotography that allowed astronomers to pierce through nebulae. Our perception of the universe would never be the same again. In 2010 I was photographing families who live in close proximity to the Dungeness nuclear power stations. While visiting the old coastguard cottages that the families lived in, I realised, on closer inspection, that the bricks of the houses were stamped ‘Pluckley’. To most people, this would be irrelevant, but I knew those bricks came from an abandoned brickworks in a haunted village. In 1988 I’d tried to photograph the ghosts of the most haunted village of Pluckley in Kent, England. I was seven years old. I tried, failed and grew up. Over 20 years later, after studying photography and freelancing, I became interested in the everyday uncanny, the village of Pluckley waited for me to find a way to photograph it. Seeing the bricks of the nuclear families’ homes was the synchronistic trigger I needed to go back and re-photograph the village. I started to research spirit photography, which led me to investigate contemporary ghost hunting and the paranormal investigation of spontaneous cases. I joined a Ghost Club for two years. Many paranormal investigators were using infrared technology. Under normal conditions we see a visible wavelength of light between 400-700 nanometres, the same range of light that most film records. I found that infrared

film with the correct filtration can reveal light up to 700-900 nanometres, allowing you to capture the invisible. I set about trying to find a source for colour infrared film, only to find that the film had been discontinued the same year. I managed to find a source in Germany, a Mr Dean Bennici, who was hand-cutting down the large rolls of the film previously used in aerial photography to fit commercial cameras. With only a handful of rolls of infrared film, I set out to photograph ghosts in the most haunted village in England. I failed. But I didn’t fail like I did when I was seven years old. I was open to the idea and I wanted to believe, but foremost I liked the idea of the ramifications of actually photographing a ghost. I could have proven that the soul exists, I could have undermined religion, and I could have changed the very nature of our human experience. But I didn’t. What started with parapsychology led me towards other more respected fields of science like medicine and astronomy. I found the original Kodak advertisements for the film and started to create a long list of its various uses – geology, hydrology, environmental impact studies, etc. Since infrared colour film had been used in forestry to show the delineation of species of trees and also to show their health, I set out researching which forest to photograph with the film. That’s when I read about the most radioactive forest in the world. Originally called Wormwood Forest, after Chernobyl nuclear reactor number four exploded and showered it in radiation, its trees turned red and died. From then on it was to be known as the Red Forest. That was the moment when the penny dropped, when the detective in the film makes a break in the case, when the scientist makes the accidental discovery. It’s finds like that which forge powerful moments for me. I don’t know necessarily what they mean at the time, but I like to think that when they happen I’m on the right track. So in the summer of 2012 I flew to Chernobyl with a friend via a ‘dark tourism’ travel group; the tours normally operate in large groups but I negotiated buying out the tour. The film is difficult enough to load in complete darkness in a changing bag, but in Chernobyl you are not allowed to place bags on the ground as they might stir up radiation, particularly from moss, which can release dangerous radioactive spores if disturbed. The last thing I wanted was to make ten exposures and then have some tour guide or tourist pestering me to hurry up as I tried to carefully load my camera. It was a blisteringly sunny day in the exclusion zone, the birds sung and the Geiger counter beeped. We approached the edge of the Red Forest, the driver parked but he refused to get out of the car. He held the Geiger counter over the steering wheel, beeping at a regular interval, already in alarm mode reading a dangerous level of radiation. He stretched his arm outside the vehicle, holding the counter towards the Red Forest; the beeps rapidly sped up until they became a constant tone. He smiled and I got out of the car.

13


FOREWORD I’m four years old. I can’t get to sleep because of the lights. I call to my parents asking them to turn them off but there are no lights on in the room. Years later I’m diagnosed as having an optical anomaly, a cluster of lights at the centre of my field of vision, like a television snowstorm but brightly coloured. I’ve learned to make them disappear, but I can see them when I want to.

12

The infrared spectrum was discovered on February 11th 1800 at Observation House, Slough, England by Sir William Herschel. He’d been experimenting with filters to better see sunspots through his telescope. Using a prism he separated a beam of light into a spectrum and measured the temperatures of the varying colours it revealed. He then measured beyond the red, a space where there was no visible light, and found that this area was the hottest of all. He had discovered the infrared spectrum. Infrared-sensitive photographic emulsions were made widely available from the 1930s and the work produced on this strange film has been far-reaching and diverse. There were over 1,800 documented uses of the film in aerial photography, forensics, sciences, botany, palaeontology, graphic arts, spectrography and astronomy. It seems that once scientists were aware they could expose things beyond our visual perception, there was no realm that infrared photography did not try to reveal – from experiments on tropical fish attempting to document their perception of infrared wavelengths to far-reaching astrophotography that allowed astronomers to pierce through nebulae. Our perception of the universe would never be the same again. In 2010 I was photographing families who live in close proximity to the Dungeness nuclear power stations. While visiting the old coastguard cottages that the families lived in, I realised, on closer inspection, that the bricks of the houses were stamped ‘Pluckley’. To most people, this would be irrelevant, but I knew those bricks came from an abandoned brickworks in a haunted village. In 1988 I’d tried to photograph the ghosts of the most haunted village of Pluckley in Kent, England. I was seven years old. I tried, failed and grew up. Over 20 years later, after studying photography and freelancing, I became interested in the everyday uncanny, the village of Pluckley waited for me to find a way to photograph it. Seeing the bricks of the nuclear families’ homes was the synchronistic trigger I needed to go back and re-photograph the village. I started to research spirit photography, which led me to investigate contemporary ghost hunting and the paranormal investigation of spontaneous cases. I joined a Ghost Club for two years. Many paranormal investigators were using infrared technology. Under normal conditions we see a visible wavelength of light between 400-700 nanometres, the same range of light that most film records. I found that infrared

film with the correct filtration can reveal light up to 700-900 nanometres, allowing you to capture the invisible. I set about trying to find a source for colour infrared film, only to find that the film had been discontinued the same year. I managed to find a source in Germany, a Mr Dean Bennici, who was hand-cutting down the large rolls of the film previously used in aerial photography to fit commercial cameras. With only a handful of rolls of infrared film, I set out to photograph ghosts in the most haunted village in England. I failed. But I didn’t fail like I did when I was seven years old. I was open to the idea and I wanted to believe, but foremost I liked the idea of the ramifications of actually photographing a ghost. I could have proven that the soul exists, I could have undermined religion, and I could have changed the very nature of our human experience. But I didn’t. What started with parapsychology led me towards other more respected fields of science like medicine and astronomy. I found the original Kodak advertisements for the film and started to create a long list of its various uses – geology, hydrology, environmental impact studies, etc. Since infrared colour film had been used in forestry to show the delineation of species of trees and also to show their health, I set out researching which forest to photograph with the film. That’s when I read about the most radioactive forest in the world. Originally called Wormwood Forest, after Chernobyl nuclear reactor number four exploded and showered it in radiation, its trees turned red and died. From then on it was to be known as the Red Forest. That was the moment when the penny dropped, when the detective in the film makes a break in the case, when the scientist makes the accidental discovery. It’s finds like that which forge powerful moments for me. I don’t know necessarily what they mean at the time, but I like to think that when they happen I’m on the right track. So in the summer of 2012 I flew to Chernobyl with a friend via a ‘dark tourism’ travel group; the tours normally operate in large groups but I negotiated buying out the tour. The film is difficult enough to load in complete darkness in a changing bag, but in Chernobyl you are not allowed to place bags on the ground as they might stir up radiation, particularly from moss, which can release dangerous radioactive spores if disturbed. The last thing I wanted was to make ten exposures and then have some tour guide or tourist pestering me to hurry up as I tried to carefully load my camera. It was a blisteringly sunny day in the exclusion zone, the birds sung and the Geiger counter beeped. We approached the edge of the Red Forest, the driver parked but he refused to get out of the car. He held the Geiger counter over the steering wheel, beeping at a regular interval, already in alarm mode reading a dangerous level of radiation. He stretched his arm outside the vehicle, holding the counter towards the Red Forest; the beeps rapidly sped up until they became a constant tone. He smiled and I got out of the car.

13


24

25


24

25


“GHOSTS MOVE VERY QUICKLY THROUGH OUR SPACE” Historically, within the context of the paranormal, infrared film was used to debunk the supernatural. The film’s ability to record in low light was utilised by paranormal investigators to see through the murky darkness that spiritualist séances were conducted in to discredit charlatans. In the late 20th and early 21st century, paranormal investigators started to use infrared again, but this time with the aim of capturing images of ghosts. The wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation we are normally capable of perceiving lie between 390 and 700 nanometres. Infrared film records wavelengths between 750-900 nanometres, allowing the invisible to be captured on film. This has led some parapsychologists and ghost hunters to believe that it is a potential tool in the detection of ghosts. Based on research and discussions, it appears that entities, ghosts, spirits, etc. are more sensitive to being seen in IR light than UV light. This is in line with another theory that ghosts move very quickly through our space. A high-speed object would be better illuminated with a low-frequency/long wave light source than a high-frequency/short wave source. It is also possible that what-

ever composition ghosts are (including ectoplasm), they are more sensitive to reflecting IR light.4 Robin M. Strom MEd

Since the birth of photography, ghosts have seemingly appeared in thousands of photographs. Often the result of an accidental technical camera error, some ghostly images have still defied explanation. It is interesting to note that in the digital age, given the millions of photographs produced every day, we haven’t yet seen photographic proof of the existence of ghosts. It may be that ghosts don’t actually exist. But it could also be that the binary nature of digital photography simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. Maybe there is something in the analogue chemical process of film photography that particularly suits spectral photography. One common tenet of paranormal investigators is that even if there are thousands of hoax ghost photographs, all it takes is for just one to be authentic. 4. Liparanormalinvestigators.com. (2016). Infrared ultraviolet light IR ultra violet UV infrared for paranormal ghost spirit investigations by Long Island paranormal investigators.

49


“GHOSTS MOVE VERY QUICKLY THROUGH OUR SPACE” Historically, within the context of the paranormal, infrared film was used to debunk the supernatural. The film’s ability to record in low light was utilised by paranormal investigators to see through the murky darkness that spiritualist séances were conducted in to discredit charlatans. In the late 20th and early 21st century, paranormal investigators started to use infrared again, but this time with the aim of capturing images of ghosts. The wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation we are normally capable of perceiving lie between 390 and 700 nanometres. Infrared film records wavelengths between 750-900 nanometres, allowing the invisible to be captured on film. This has led some parapsychologists and ghost hunters to believe that it is a potential tool in the detection of ghosts. Based on research and discussions, it appears that entities, ghosts, spirits, etc. are more sensitive to being seen in IR light than UV light. This is in line with another theory that ghosts move very quickly through our space. A high-speed object would be better illuminated with a low-frequency/long wave light source than a high-frequency/short wave source. It is also possible that what-

ever composition ghosts are (including ectoplasm), they are more sensitive to reflecting IR light.4 Robin M. Strom MEd

Since the birth of photography, ghosts have seemingly appeared in thousands of photographs. Often the result of an accidental technical camera error, some ghostly images have still defied explanation. It is interesting to note that in the digital age, given the millions of photographs produced every day, we haven’t yet seen photographic proof of the existence of ghosts. It may be that ghosts don’t actually exist. But it could also be that the binary nature of digital photography simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. Maybe there is something in the analogue chemical process of film photography that particularly suits spectral photography. One common tenet of paranormal investigators is that even if there are thousands of hoax ghost photographs, all it takes is for just one to be authentic. 4. Liparanormalinvestigators.com. (2016). Infrared ultraviolet light IR ultra violet UV infrared for paranormal ghost spirit investigations by Long Island paranormal investigators.

49


THE CI T Y No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

In The City, colour infrared film is used to highlight the issue of pollution in one of Europe’s most polluted cities – London. In 2014 Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the U.K. Department of Health, announced that pollution shortens the average Briton’s life expectancy by six months, with 1 in 12 deaths in some areas of the country partly attributable to poor-quality air5. Scientists from King’s College London recorded peak levels of 463 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air on Oxford Street, making Oxford Street one of the most polluted streets in the world. Most air pollution is created by humanity through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline. Carbon dioxide levels are an indicator of how much fossil fuel is burned and how other pollutants are emitted as a result. In London it is the volume of traffic in high-density transport hub areas that is causing such high spikes in CO2 emissions. The skyline of London is something ingrained in our subconscious, its landmarks a predominant feature in our arts and culture worldwide. London has been depicted a million times in literature, film and the arts, and yet through the strange colour-shift of this rare colour infrared film, it has somehow been reborn. Familiar and alien, iconic landmarks still remain but their context has drastically shifted. Like the photographs of The Village, this re-imagined England alludes to famous works of science-fiction. A dystopian London, similar to the original, asks us to revisit what we think we already know about the capital. A place where corrupted growths have sprouted amongst towering buildings from the Houses of Parliament all the way to the City of London. 5. Public Health England, (2014). Estimates of mortality in local authority areas associated with air pollution. PHE Publications.

53


THE CI T Y No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

In The City, colour infrared film is used to highlight the issue of pollution in one of Europe’s most polluted cities – London. In 2014 Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the U.K. Department of Health, announced that pollution shortens the average Briton’s life expectancy by six months, with 1 in 12 deaths in some areas of the country partly attributable to poor-quality air5. Scientists from King’s College London recorded peak levels of 463 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air on Oxford Street, making Oxford Street one of the most polluted streets in the world. Most air pollution is created by humanity through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline. Carbon dioxide levels are an indicator of how much fossil fuel is burned and how other pollutants are emitted as a result. In London it is the volume of traffic in high-density transport hub areas that is causing such high spikes in CO2 emissions. The skyline of London is something ingrained in our subconscious, its landmarks a predominant feature in our arts and culture worldwide. London has been depicted a million times in literature, film and the arts, and yet through the strange colour-shift of this rare colour infrared film, it has somehow been reborn. Familiar and alien, iconic landmarks still remain but their context has drastically shifted. Like the photographs of The Village, this re-imagined England alludes to famous works of science-fiction. A dystopian London, similar to the original, asks us to revisit what we think we already know about the capital. A place where corrupted growths have sprouted amongst towering buildings from the Houses of Parliament all the way to the City of London. 5. Public Health England, (2014). Estimates of mortality in local authority areas associated with air pollution. PHE Publications.

53


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THE ORION NEBULA

122

The Orion nebula is perhaps the most famous star-forming region of all because it lies close enough to Earth to be seen by the unaided eye. However, only the central portion around the trapezium of bright hot young stars is bright in normal light. The infrared reveals the wide expanse of the cooler regions of gas. This stellar nursery is some 1300 light years from us and giving birth to thousands of new stars and planetary systems.


THE ORION NEBULA

122

The Orion nebula is perhaps the most famous star-forming region of all because it lies close enough to Earth to be seen by the unaided eye. However, only the central portion around the trapezium of bright hot young stars is bright in normal light. The infrared reveals the wide expanse of the cooler regions of gas. This stellar nursery is some 1300 light years from us and giving birth to thousands of new stars and planetary systems.


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The Unseen - An Atlas of Infrared Plates by Edward Thompson  

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