Seeing the Unseeable, Magnificently at Gallery+
When one hears the term “infrared photography,” one often thinks of technology that allows things to be seen in the dark. The word “Infrared” refers to a range of waves on the light spectrum that are unseeable by the human eye. Thanks to modern photography, images can be brought to life with spectacular results.
Gallery+, located in 78th Street Studios, currently has an exhibition of infrared photography on view through October 20th. The World We Don’t See is curated by gallery owner Zackary Hoon. It features some of his infrared works, as well as those of other photographers who specialize in the craft. They include Luciano Demasi of San Diego, California; Richard Binhammer of Richmond, Virginia; Peter Mantice of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Matthew Stuart Piper of St. Louis, Missouri.
This is the first show Hoon has done where he pulled in artists from other parts of the country. Previous shows were done with local artists.
Infrared photography is a very small niche in the art of photography. It has evolved from being a film-based genre to a digital medium thanks to new sensors that are adapted to current camera models that effectively restrict them to infrared photography. Foliage captured with infrared film in black and white would appear as white. With Kodak’s color infrared film Aerochrome, red came into the picture. Now, digital technologies allow for new color possibilities as evidenced by some of the work in this show.
According to Hoon, a photographer named Minor White was one of the first to experiment with infrared photography in its black and white mode. When Aerochrome arrived, some of his experiments ended up on popular album covers. Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead were among those to embrace the imagery. Says Hoon, “there’s been a history from the beginning of advancements in the infrared [technology] going from black and white to color and all along the way, people seeing the creative potential and exploring that.”
Hoon says the typical subject matter is nature. Landscapes and scenes with trees have been a principal focal point in the genre. Because of the unusual effect that happens on the leaves, white leaves on trees lead people to assume it’s ice. “People would ask, if that’s frozen, why is the lake not frozen? They start realizing, okay maybe that’s not ice, what’s going on? There’s a little bit of confusion because you’re not seeing things the way you expect to see them.”
He says the effect you get with infrared is both nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. “There’s this familiarity but strangeness to it which I’ve been trying to embrace to give that kind of timeless quality to the images.” Hoon has gone to include people and architecture as subjects. Other photographers are doing the same, with portraiture becoming more popular as subject matter.
“Some unusual side effects that you get if you take pictures of people, there’s a little bit of translucence that happens with the skin and depending on how you capture the infrared you can actually start seeing veins. So there’s a lot of creative potential there as well.”
For example, someone shot with sunglasses on results in image that permits you to look right through the sunglasses and see only frames. A picture of red wine appears clear.
The science of the photography in the digital paradigm requires a camera to be adapted to facilitate the infrared image result. According to Hoon, “Because the digital sensors will pick up all of the light, what they do actually in the digital camera is to put filters over (the sensors) to filter out ultraviolet and infrared light spectrum. So basically, the infrared spectrum starts with [light waves measuring about 530 nanometers], and that goes to about 900 or so. [A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.] The infrared we’re picking up is at the near end [of the spectrum]. That’s not, like, heat sensing so it’s a different spectrum of infrared versus what the military and police will use, where you see the night cameras and you can see the bodies showing up because they’re putting out the heat signatures. That’s a different spectrum of the infrared. But in the range that the photographers use, that goes from about 530 [nm]to 950 [nm]. The lower the number, the more color you see. The higher the number, the more black-and-white it goes.”
Sounds technical, but it describes a process that allows photographers who are honing their craft to create spectacularly beautiful images. Five of those photographers have works on display in Cleveland which can be viewed in the Gallery+ Gallery in the W. 78th Street Studios. Gallery hours are 1-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays until the October 20 close.