Our mentor, renowned physicist Harris Kagan was sure to drill in the major rules of holography:
- Two beams - you can't have an image without an object beam and reference beam coinciding on the film and creating an interference pattern.
- Stability - nothing can move more than half the distance of a wavelength of light (roughly 300 nm) during the exposure or you get a changing (distorted/destroyed) interference pattern
But there were several more lessons to be learned, which I think are transferrable to other disciplines.
- Everything matters - whether it's which hand you use to load the glass into the film holder, what brand of squeegee you buy (for the record, the perfect squeegee was formerly found at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $9 but has since been discontinued much to the dismay of the holography community), or what object you're imaging, everything has a purpose and a meaning, and nothing is done without consideration.
- You can do anything, it just takes time - nothing is off limits, it just might take 8 hours of re-machining parts, building structures, and aligning optics to make it feasible.
- Well, maybe not anything - there are many inherent limitations to the medium. Fuzzy things and living things move on a microscopic level. No matter how still you are, you'll never be stabile enough for a continuous laser image. Shiny objects just work better. But if they're too shiny they won't work at all. Green objects will never be bright under a red laser. Whatever idea you had, assume you'll be tweaking it. However it's these limitations that provide for many of the most interesting and ingenuitive experimental holograms.
- It's who you know - nothing new, but the holography community is super close-knit. It's like a secret society or a fraternity, in which everyone knows everyone, and it's a small pond filled with huge fish all swimming shoulder to shoulder. We had visitors drive in from several states over when they heard Sam and Harris would be in the same room, just for a chance to get an autograph and talk lasers. Good ol' so-and-so out in Russia? Yeah, I saw him a few weeks ago. He worked with what's-his-name in Japan, right? Yeah, right before I worked with him in NY. He's married to that woman what's-her-face. Oh yeah, I had dinner with her last month at such-and-such. If you can manage to name drop that one holographer you've worked with, they will know who you mean, and you will feel very important for the next 45 seconds. But when you're in the company of holographers talking holography, prepare to be acutely aware of the fact that you are, for now, an outsider graciously being offered a peek into a strange world full of physics jokes, unpronounceable words, and units of measure you haven't thought about since high school.
- There are two types of artists - the kind that want to be holographers and the kind that want you to make holograms for them so they can look like holographers. Holographers can smell a poser from a mile away. For instance, I found out the hard way not to mention James Turrell as one of your holography idols. The holography community has a severe distaste for Turrell, who walks into a lab and pays "real" holographers to make him brilliant things. But if you asked him about beam ratios or how exactly triethylalamine filters out selective wavelengths of white light to develop a colored hologram, he'd likely give you a blank stare. While he gets all the glory as a "legendary holographer" the guy who likely invented all the techniques he's using is sitting in a basement in Ohio getting an autograph from Sam Morée.
- Give up the Pepper's Ghost - holographers are VERY touchy about the colloquial bantering about of the word "hologram." If I had a dollar for every time it was mentioned that Tupac was not a hologram but merely a pepper's ghost illusion (and that holography is not an illusion - it is real wavelengths of light reaching your eye the exact same way they would if the object were there), I'd be able to afford my own lab. Nor are HoloLens or VR technically holographic technologies. Moral of the story, technicalities matter (see bullet point #1)
As our week rounded to a close, we had the opportunity to ask Sam over dinner and drinks what he sees for the future of holography. Recognizing this is someone who has been innovating and pioneering holographic techniques for the past 35 or so years, I was hanging on his every word.
He feels that the technology of imaging and developing holograms has largely come as far as it likely can. But he sees great potential in attention to the process of viewing them. New lighting technology and new optics research could really revolutionize the way holograms are integrated into life on both practical and artistic levels.
Thinking within the framework of my practice, I'm looking forward to being able to experiment with my existing holograms on these terms. Activating holograms using digital projection rather than lasers or gallery lights, or playing with projecting holograms from a point or line source seem like promising places to start.
I still have this sneaking urge to attempt a DIY holography lab, but after seeing the fortune spent on legitimate equipment I have serious doubts about realizing that urge.
And ultimately, I'm excited to dream up a reason to propose a return to OSU for a residency.
|From left: Harris Kagan, Miho Ogai, Jaccqui Delaney, Zsofi Valyi-Nagi, Sandra Meigs, Jeff Hazelden, Eric Valosin, Sam Morée|
And should you find yourself in Columbus, I'll share the same advice that was shared with me: Go to Jeni's ice cream. Sample everything (I looked down at one point to find 10 tiny spoons in my sticky, clenched fingers), and ask for pairing suggestions. The ice cream will exceed the hype.
And for the record, ice cream is one of the few things in life that is better off not being a hologram.