20 February 2007 Ethereal presences in holography and photography
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Abstract
This paper examines the concept of the 'Presence of Absence' in post-mortem photography and holography, drawing upon both historical and lesser-known images as reference. To create a photographic negative one needs the presence of light to expose the light sensitive surface, be it glass, a polished plate or plastic. A hologram may also be created when a coherent light source, for example from a Laser, travels through a light sensitive material and falls upon the subject to be recorded. A holograph however, retains the optical qualities of both phase and amplitude, the memory of light. Both mediums recall, as it were, 'now absent moments', and confronts us with what is 'not there' as much as 'what is'. This paper examines the exploration of absence and presence in post-mortem photography and holography and it's a richly visceral visual language. A photonic syntax can interpret death as an elegant yet horrific aesthetic, the photograph may be beautify screened and yet obscene in its content. In essence one can be a voyeur, experiencing a mere visual whisper of the true nature of the subject. Our Victorian forefathers explored postmortem photography as an object of mourning, and at the close of the nineteenth century when Jack the Ripper had the inhabitants of White Chapel in a grip of fear, photography made its mark as a documentation of violent crime. Today, within contemporary photography, death is now presented within the confines of the 'Art Gallery', as a sensual, and at times, sensationalised art form. In exploring post-mortem imagery, both in holography and conventional photography, absence presents an aspect of death as startling in its unanimated form and detailed in its finite examination of mortality.
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M. Richardson, Kay Byrne, "Ethereal presences in holography and photography", Proc. SPIE 6488, Practical Holography XXI: Materials and Applications, 64880M (20 February 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.726143; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.726143
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