As amazing as the human eye is, its perception is confined to an incredibly thin band of electromagnetic energy we call the visible spectrum. Beyond this optical window there exists an entire range of energy interacting with matter. An exhibition of photographic images currently on display at Brooks Institute’s Cota Street Gallery takes us beyond the range of visible light, exposing a world the naked eye can’t see.
One of the first images in the exhibition is an x-ray of a frog by Tom Miller. While the rays pass through the amphibian’s tissue, bones provide a barrier, resulting in an image of the frog’s delicate skeletal framework and revealing a disturbing anomaly: two extra legs. Further along the wall is the sinuous line of a twisting snake. Closer examination of this image reveals that the apparent aberration within the image is actually a rat being consumed by the reptile at the time of exposure. Miller also presents moments of sublime and simple beauty, as in his elegant, ghostly depiction of a rose flower.
While Miller concentrates on x-ray imaging, Dennis Sheridan wanders the electromagnetic spectrum. He offers a selection of refined landscape images captured on infrared film. This film reacts to heat, so the regions of the scene emitting the greatest thermal energy result in maximum exposure. In Sheridan’s work, skies are rendered a deep gray, while plants glow luminously. Sheridan also explores electron microscopy to commanding effect. A head of a walking stick exemplifies the majesty of the technique, and successive depictions of an insect’s egg and its operculum (the structure it uses to adhere to surfaces) offer insight into the analytic capabilities of the instrument.
In embracing such technologies and exposing a world that is typically hidden to the human eye, these two photographers show us the ways in which our perspective determines or limits our understanding. In standing among these curious images, we are offered a view of life from a different vantage point. Sometimes, what we can’t see can be most enlightening.
Brooks Institute’s Cota Street Gallery is located at 27 East Cota Street. For more information, visit invisiblelightshow.com.