Ghostly Thermal Imaging Portraits are Eerie and Fascinating

A few years ago, photographer Linda Alterwitz was inspired by an episode of Cops to start taking photos using a borrowed thermographic camera. The results are compelling and a bit eerie.

Ghostly Thermal Imaging Portraits are Eerie and Fascinating

The photo above is Alterwitz's German Shepherd, Ruby. This photo is part of Alterwitz's Thermal Series, specifically the canine subseries. Shot with the thermographic camera, and rendered in black and white, the dog looks like a ghost caught in the corridor.

Alterwitz was originally inspired to start shooting these thermal photos by an episode of Cops, telling the Smithsonian's Collage of Arts and Sciences blog:

The helicopter was chasing a person running, in the pitch-black night, and this thermal camera showed amazing silhouetted images. I saw it, and my first thought was "how can I get one of those cameras?"

The cameras uncovered some interesting hidden images. Take this one:

Ghostly Thermal Imaging Portraits are Eerie and Fascinating

Those black spots aren't fleas, like you might think. They're water droplets, as Alterwitz explains:

Ruby had just finished drinking and she had water spots all over her face which were only made visible through the lens of the thermal camera. So what we’re seeing are cold spots of water on her face in relation to her warm body temperature.

Her thermal photos also include portraits and a group called "Core," which shoots subjects without tops to better expose the circulatory system to the camera.

Ghostly Thermal Imaging Portraits are Eerie and Fascinating

This isn't the first time Alterwitz has done projects with high-tech cameras to create art. She's previously paired X-Rays, MRI, and microscope images with photos taken with a low-tech toy camera. She told Photowhoa about why she did this:

I always use experimentation as part of my process, trying to push the boundaries in some way. It’s important to me to use chance and lack of control as an element of my work. In regards to photography, it’s just so easy to take a “perfect picture.” If you know how to use your camera, you can usually get the shot in regards to exposure, clarity, depth of field, etc. Although I am no stranger to a digital camera, I find the unpredictability and element of chance that you get with the plastic camera an interesting element in my work. The low-tech workings of the plastic camera fill this need in capturing that element of chance. In complete contrast to my low-tech cameras, I also use a high tech digital camera, the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 lens. I use this equipment to re-photograph medical imagery, trying to capture a factual image of what lies beneath the surface of our unaided vision.

This one once again features Alterwitz's dog, this time in the form of an X-Ray of her hip overlayed on a beach scene:

Ghostly Thermal Imaging Portraits are Eerie and Fascinating

These photos are from a project called "Discarded Dreams," which Alterwitz describes this way:

In the series “Discarded Dreams” I blend together landscape images captured with a plastic camera with medical images or microscopic images (such as radiographs, microscopic algae, ultrasounds) that are either collected as a digital image or re-photographed on my digital camera. The medical imagery represents information required to see what cannot be seen on the surface. In contrast, photographic images of landscape provide a different type of information: that which is familiar, identifiable and exposed at the surface.

You can visit Alterwitz's site to see all the projects she's done taking high-tech images and making them eerie works of art.