Schilt Publishing’s new release, The Unseen – An Atlas of Infrared Film is a comprehensive, almost academic, exploration of several uses of infrared film by documentary photographer Edward Thompson. For the better part of the last decade, Thompson has travelled the world – from Ukraine to Northern India – chasing stories and locations to photograph with the last 52 rolls of Kodak Aerochrome Infrared film.
In his foreword, Thompson recounts a childhood fascination with the spirit world, his membership of a Ghost Club and failed attempts at photographing ghosts using infrared film. This strange obsession with capturing the paranormal in photographs, lead to a personal exploration of what he calls “other more respected fields of science” like medicine, geology, botany and astronomy where infrared film has been historically used towards other ends. For example in forestry, where the infrared colour film can be used to reveal the health of certain species of trees.
In the book his body of work has been presented in twelve chapters; infrared film is used to a different effect in each. For instance, in a chapter titled The Red Forest he documents the most radioactive forest in the world, where the film itself was affected by radiation, manipulating the appearance of the prints. In another chapter titled The City, stunning aerial shots of London reveals a reddish band of smog and pollutants.
What’s perhaps most striking about this photo book is how diverse each chapter and series of photographs is not just in subject matter, but also in aesthetic – it is easy to mistake the book for an anthology featuring the work of several photographers, when it is in fact one artist’s triumphant homage to the medium of colour infrared film photography.
Lead image: Studies in Pollution #7. The River Thames from The City. (2014). England. 120mm CIR Photograph.