Ed Thompson London Documentary Photographer | Lecturer | Artist

The Unseen:
An Atlas of Infrared Plates


CREATIVE REVIEW: 'One artist's triumphant homage to the medium of colour infrared film photography'


In his book The Unseen: An Atlas of Infrared Plates Edward Thompson has 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, scientific journals and library archives 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 twelve parts to the project which had to be photographed on only 52 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 After the flood, after the Red River valley (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.

In April 2015 the work was exhibited at Four Corners Gallery and was featured by TimeOut London as one of London's unmissable art events of the week.

The Unseen is published by Schilt Publishing and globally distributed by Thames & Hudson in 2016.

The project was supported by The Arts Council England with the book launched at The Photographers Gallery in London in 2016.

If you work in publishing and would like to review a copy of the book please contact Schilt Publishing.

Project Details

BUY THE BOOK: Buy the book contact here

PRINT SALES : For limited edition prints from The Unseen click here

BOOK REVIEWS & PUBLICATION : LensCulture, Creative Review, The Guardian, Darren Campion Review, BBC, Vice Motherboard, Photoworks, DesignBoom, Daily Mail Science, The Indepedent New Review, Pipeline Photography Annual (Hong Kong), PDN,