Holography Critiques


Portrait of Saul Bryanston-Cross

Hologram on Agfa Glass Photographic Plate, 22X24
By Peter Bryanston-Cross
1993, No. 1 of 3.
Gallery of J. D. Trolinger
Provenance: From the artist in August, 2002
Produced at Richmond Holographics, London, UK
With assistance of Edwina Orr
Doubly-exposed, ruby laser, holographic interferogram

Saul Bryanston-Cross, 13 year-old (in 1993) son of the artist, is a natural and highly talented musician and composer, one of those rare individuals who can pick up an instrument, like this French Horn, and immediately produce pure notes, with no overtones. When asked how he knows that the note is in its pure form, his response is “I can feel it.”

This piece is highly successful in exploiting the medium of holography to capture and convey to a sophisticated (trained) observer information, meaning, and emotion that cannot possibly be achieved with photography, painting, or even sculpture. As such it is a highly successful work of holographic art.

The photograph shown here is a mere representation of the actual piece, which must be viewed to study, enjoy and participate with its many features. The ability to capture and display parallax (providing different images and information when viewed from different angles) is a principle feature of holography. Viewer interaction is another. Parallax is, of course available in sculpture, but not in painting or photography (except for stereo photography, where it is still severely limited). The artist makes a very effective parallax-enhancing use of shadows in this composition, a technique known to and used often by seasoned art holographers. Shadows produced by the French horn on Saul’s body move in relation to the part of the horn that creates them when a viewer changes his head position, greatly enhancing and encouraging viewer participation with the piece. The bell of the horn protrudes over a foot in front of the hologram. The artist has chosen to place the face in the plane of the hologram, usually a wise choice in holographic portraiture because of limitations in lighting used during viewing.

The artist, Peter Bryanston-Cross, one of the most creative scientific holographers of the 20th Century, realizing that his son’s “feeling"” might be made observable through the application of holographic interferometry, produced this holographic portrait that displays visually and quantifies, to the trained eye, the feeling process described by Saul.

The fringes in the horn show how the sound vibrations move the horn, displaying visually what we would have heard if we had been there during the recording. Even an untrained observer can connect the patterns to sound without much imagination. We are effectively seeing the movement that is causing the sound coming from the horn, the same sound that can be heard by the musician, and also the sound trapped in his bones and felt by his body.

Recording two superimposed, minutely different images of an object with holography enables the display of the separation of the two object positions. Such recordings exhibit contour fringes that can detect and display minute movement a subject caused by sound vibrations.

From the scientist’s view, a strong resonance can be observed through the fringes in Saul’s collarbone, facial structure, and chest wall. His bone structure, acting like large sound antennae, conveys information to his brain that his ears cannot. The resonances would be felt strongly by him when certain resonant frequencies are achieved, and he would be able to detect easily any overtones present in his bones if he “listens” with his body. Ears are designed to listen in a completely different way and could not provide the same type of information.

This unique piece displays a strong interaction of science, music, and art, employing vocabulary from each. We can share sound and feeling of the music without a sound from the picture. The hologram literally sings to us through fringes. In addition to a strong technical message, the piece offers a strong artistic, moral message.

”I Can Feel the Music” is about communication between a boy and his father and the effort and training required by both to communicate in a meaningful way. What the son feels can go completely unknown to a father who is not willing to go the extra mile. If the father listens, believes, asks questions, and strives to understand, then the rewards are great. Here the father demonstrates to his son that he can hear him in ways that he may not understand, since understanding may require him to use language and knowledge of his own that may be completely foreign to the son. This work of art is a testament to the richness of information that can be conveyed between any two individuals whose goal is communication and whose strategy involves trust and employs whatever tools and language they command.

The piece also implores us to listen to our own bodies.

The technical quality of the hologram is excellent, exhibiting a bright low noise image of high resolution. Much of this can be attributed to the production of the piece in Richmond Holographic Laboratories, where the latest in recording technology and chemistry were available. Only in such a highly advanced laboratory could a hologram of this quality be produced. This work of art is also a testament to teamwork, pushing the limits in pulsed laser holography and processing chemistry. In the actual piece an observer can count the hairs on the musician’s head, can focus and examine in microscopic detail over a depth of over two feet, much more than can be achieved in this simple photograph, which is only representative of a single viewing angle and depth. The image is viewable over a wide angle, allowing several viewers to examine and discuss the piece simultaneously.

Holographic artists have a fairly wide range of color choices in a monocolor piece of this type through processing techniques. Artistically, it is extremely important to choose a color that is harmonious with all of the key items in the work. Here, the color choice has not only matched the gold of the French horn, but somehow gives the impression of a pleasing skin color. One of the major problems in this type of portraiture is finding a skin color that compliments the person, since full-color holographic portraiture is still rare even today. Available colors usually do not compliment the person. Providing an acceptable skin color seems easiest with a black model; however, placing the French horn in the scene with a young boy, leaves the viewer with a perception that the skin color is complementary and even flattering. This hologram introduces a green tint in the lower left hand corner of the hologram that seems to move the skin color in the correct direction, while giving the highlights on the horn a definite gold appearance. Even Joseph Albers would have been impressed with this artist for achieving this pleasing effect.

Brief Summary

"I Can Feel the Music" is an exceptionally strong art work because it is so rich in almost every aspect of art holography. It will be recognized in the future as a rare masterpiece and a unique example of holographic art for numerous reasons. Here are some of those reasons. It contains an aesthetic subject with deep meaning about a relationship between a father and son presented in an unusual manner. It contains deeper meaning about society in general. It exploits the medium of holography to produce effects that could be obtained in no other fashion. It is of a rare genre that combines advanced scientific knowledge with artistic creativity using complex vocabulary of both. It is of high technical quality. Only three copies exist, and since it is produced on a material that has not been available since the late nineties, no more copies will be produced. It cannot be counterfeited. It is unusually large for holographic portraiture. It is associated with a unique production team that included a highly reputable holographic laboratory and a scientist/artist who is well known and widely published. The team spent many hours conceiving, composing, and producing this hologram. It is interesting and easy to view, to participate with, to analyze, and to discuss.

"I Can Feel the Music" was exhibited in the Bremen Focke Museum  in 2001.

Interestingly enough, an art professor, upon studying this piece for a while commented that this was only a three dimensional image and could not be considered art. It is truly amazing how little someone sees when he refuses to look.

At some time in the not too distant future "I Can Feel the Music" will be a highly prized piece in the permanent collection of a public gallery. The remaining copies are in possession of the artist.