Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.
When I first became interested in photography, I was seduced in part by the alchemy and magic of the darkroom. The process of making an image using chemistry was awe-inspiring. I don’t use film so often these days, but occasionally I’ll run a roll through my camera and process it in the kitchen sink. That sense of magic never ceases to amaze me.
Despite the myriad advantages of digital photography, the lack of ‘magic’ in the digital process is a disappointment. However, there is still a lot to marvel at in the digital world: if someone had told the 10-year-old me, in my darkroom, that one day I would be taking photographs on a smartphone and beaming them around the world in nanoseconds, I would have been astounded.
And if someone also said that I could plug in a little adaptor and the smartphone would be able to take thermal images, I would have been flabbergasted. While it might not be the same as the alchemy of the darkroom, there are many things you cannot see with the naked eye that you can only see with a thermal imaging camera – and that is magic in my book.
I have a small Flir One Pro which plugs into my iPhone 11 Pro: using the relevant app, hey presto, I have a thermal imaging camera. It’s really intended for engineers and other more practical uses, but being the experimental creative that I am, I relish in the potential. Apart from anything else, on a purely aesthetic level, I love the wonderful hues of a completely new color palette to work with.
This image was taken in my kitchen just as a test; but the more I looked at it, the more I was taken by the near-abstract arrangement of color and shape. The vase of flowers and the window give some tangible evidence of what the image is. In our current time, when the temperature in humans is so relevant, I can see some potential in exploring the world from a thermal perspective.
• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series