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The Unseen

The Unseen

Ed Thompson

THE UNSEEN Exhibition


In The Unseen Ed Thompson set out to explore the boundaries of perception, whether they are things outside our visual spectrum or events that go unnoticed or unreported. 

A respected British photographer, his work has focused on various subjects over the years – from covering environmental issues, socio-political movements, subcultures and the consequences of war. In his work he often tries to be as intimate with a group as possible, to empathise with them and try to see what they saw in themselves. But there are limits to our sight; a documentary photographer can only photograph what they can see. 

In 2010, while researching ways of documenting the haunted village of Pluckley in Kent, he stumbled upon articles claiming that ghosts could be revealed with infrared photography. Under normal conditions we see a visible wavelength of light between 400-700 nanometers and that's the range of light most cameras record. After some research he found that Infrared film with the correct filtration can reveal light between 750-1000 nanometers, it allows the invisible to be photographed. 

After photographing The Village (2011) with 6 rolls of medium format Kodak Aerochrome film he started to research why this curious film had been made in the first place. From the original Kodak advertisements he devised a wider project using some of the last dead-stock rolls of Kodak Aerochrome in existence – pushing its boundaries to reveal the unseen. There are five parts to the project which had to be photographed on only 31 rolls of colour infrared film. 

Some of the project directly makes use of the films abilities: in The Red Forest (2012); Thompson uses infrared film to document the condition of the most radioactive forest in the world. In The Flood (2012) Thompson takes one of the original purposes of the film – the documentation of crops post-flood via aerial photography – and instead repurposes the film by making portraits of families who have been affected on the ground. 

The project is supported by The Arts Council England.

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