Case study: invisibility

Presented images are part of a larger collection dedicated to the notion of invisibility and its diverse significations and connotations. The question of how to show something invisible is essential. It illustrates the desire to expand field of perception, which has always been the driving force for photography. What stays in a shadow and remains invisible symbolizes limits of the cognition, but at the same time poses a question about the relation between visible and knowledge with its power. Sight dominates our time as a tool of defense and aggression, giving us a false sense that we have seen (and know) so much.

Exhibition shots, Josef Sudek Studio, Prague.

Screen shots from feature movies presenting invisible characters.
a. Dr Griffin. "Invisible Man", 1933, dir: James Whale
b. Nick Halloway. "Memoirs of an Invisible Man", 1992, dir: John Carpenter
c. Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", 2001, dir: Chris Columbus
d. Sebastian Caine. "Hollow Man", 2000, dir: Paul Ver- hoeven
e. Predator. "Predator", 1987, dir: John McTiernan

The first edition of Herbert George Wells's "The Invisible Man", published in 1897. A year before, Wells reviewed Joseph Conrad's "An Outcast of the Islands", where the latter uses the phrase 'the invisible whites', illustrating the African natives criticism of the colonialists. Thanks to their guns, the 'invisible whites' can 'deal death from afar'. Some researchers believe the phrase provided inspiration for Wells's Griffin, a scientist who learns how to become invisible and, as a result, turns cruel and greedy. Conrad himself read Wells's novella shortly before starting his "Heart of Darkness" and was fascinated with it. There are indications to believe that Kurtz, the protagonist of the latter book, is an equivalent of Griffin.
Invisible Statue of Liberty. One of the most heavily photographed structures in the world. In 1983, illusionist David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear, breaking the world record in the biggest object that has ever been made invisible by a magical trick.
Copperfield used a gigantic curtain to hide the view of the statue from the audience sitting on a moving platform. Then the reflectors which were lighting the statue were turned off and before curtain was unveiled - the platform was rotated into different direction exposing just an empty spot on the water.
Harry Houdini vanishing Jennie, the elephant, performing at the Hippodrome, New York. Others might vanish rabbits, but in 1918, on the stage of the Hippodrome in New York City, Houdini made a grownup elephant disappear. This magical trick brought him success and recognition.
Sky over the Dark Sky Preserve in the Izerskie Mountains in Poland - one of the three preserves of its kind in Europe.
Light pollution map generated by NASA.
A Hubble Space Telescope photograph showing a dust disk which encircles a massive black hole. Black holes swallow light which makes them impossible to seen or be photographed. The only visible sign of them is the matter accumulation around them.
A black hole in the frozen Gulf of Gdansk in Poland.
'Black-hole hunter' - NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, at Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va., January 2012. It uses its X-ray eyes to scout for hidden black holes in the universe.
Black matter in Radomsko.
An invisible tank. Adaptive technology built by Swedish company BAE Systems allowing a vehicle to become invisible to hostile thermal imaging systems by mimicking a temperature of its surrounding.
Dazzle camouflage on a ship dating back to World War I. The effect of that camouflage is not for concealment but to make an enemy unable to recognize a precise position and the ship's course. The patterns were inspired by Cubism and often realized in cooperation with artists.
Flecktarn camouflage used by the German Bundeswehr. Designed in the mid-1970s, it had to wait 10 years to be used in the field even though it proved its worth in tests. The delay was caused by the striking resemblance of the camouflage to that used by the Waffen SS (military force of Nazi Germany). The latter camouflage conceived in the 1930s and 1940s by Professor Johann Georg Otto Schick for the Waffen SS entirely changed the way of thinking about the design of uniforms and has been considered as one of the most perfect camouflages ever created.
The horse as a zebra. British Army fighting in Africa during World War I were dyeing their horses using potassium permanganate so they would have been more difficult to extract from the background of the local wildlife.
A nursing home for mentally disabled boys and men in a former hunting castle built by Count Andrzej Renard in 1856. It is located 5 km away from the town of Zawadzkie, Poland, surrounded by vast forest areas, which were once used as a hunting park. Among the animals held there were moufflons, the last one of which was hunted in the nearby grassland in 1950.
3D model of the castle reconstructed and modeled from photographs.
Map showing the castle's location.
Beeswax moulages from a dermatology clinic in Wroclaw, Poland. They were created in the 1930s by Professor Albert Neisser as teaching aids for students. The moulages show various skin diseases.
An inactive figurative beehive representing Saint Ambrose.
Active, architectural beehives made by a beekeepers out of wood and various found objects in south-western Poland.
Bee robot - a model. A group of scientists at the Warsaw University of Technology are working on a prototype of a bee robot which will unburden bees in pollinating monocultural cultivations like almond cultivation in California.
Tool made of bamboo stick and chicken feathers, used for the hand-pollination of pear trees in Sichuan, China, due to the total disappearance of bees in that region.
In 1663 Otto von Guericke, the mayor of Magdeburg, ordered reconstruction of the unicorn skeleton using the bones found in the Unicorn's Cave (Einhornhohle) in the Harz Mountains, Germany.
Natural entrance to the Unicorn's Cave. Photo by Michael Fiegle (Natureingang der Einhornhohle bei Scharzfeld, 11 April 2011)
Based on Guericke's writings, Gottfried Leibniz drew a fictional reconstruction of the unicorn's skeleton using the bones that had been found in the cave, and published the drawing in his book "Protagaea".
The Invisible Pink Unicorn - the goddess of parody religion, a popular rhetoric figure used by atheists and other religious skeptics.