Infrared photography exhibit goes "beyond visible"

The photographs displayed in Kathy Hornsby's "Beyond Visible" exhibit cause viewers to pause, if only for a moment.

At first glance, she said, the 31 photographs appear black and white. A closer look reveals warm and cool tones.

The longer you look, the more you notice.

Such is the subtle beauty of infrared photography, using specially adapted cameras to capture near-infrared light. Light that, at 700 to 1400 nanometers, is just slightly beyond the range of human sight at around 400 to 700 nanometers.

"It's not in the spectrum of what we see as visible light," Hornsby said. "Yet it's visible to us after it comes out of the camera and is printed."

"Beyond Visible" will display through Nov. 4 at Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center.

"This is a whole different realm of photography, and something that I don't think has been presented in the Williamsburg area," said Apryl Altman, the center's artistic director.

A longtime Williamsburg resident and gallery member, Hornsby has painted and photographed for several years. But three years ago, inspired by her photography mentor Nevada Wier, Hornsby became intrigued with the infrared process.

"There are things that are surprises, and there are a lot of failures when I do it," Horsnby said.

As with any art, it's been a learning process, she said. It still is.

"You have to shoot differently," she said. "You have to be really careful about where the (natural) light is coming from."

There are other restrictions: certain lenses, white balances and apertures work better than others.

"But that's part of the fun for me is thinking, 'Oh, this might work really well in infrared,' and then finding out that it doesn't. Or vice versa," Hornsby said.

Once the photograph has been captured and printed — Hornsby worked with Brittany Nelson of Flatten Image in Richmond — the image feels at once familiar and foreign.

"For me, it looks a little surreal," Altman said. "It almost looks silky. There's just a different feel of the picture."

However, Hornsby doesn't think an image compelling simply when shot in infrared. The strength, she believes, always stems from the subject.

"Beyond Visible" depicts everything from flowers in Hornsby's kitchen to the Herero people in Namibia, Africa, to scenes from the Himalayas. Hornsby thrives in taking environmental portraits, but she said infrared photography has pushed her to explore more landscapes.

"There are so many things in our world that we don't understand or comprehend or can see," Altman said. "This is a process that allows us to see something that we wouldn't normally get to see."

Hornsby will be in the gallery from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, during An Occasion for the Arts.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays; 1-5 p.m., Sundays

Where: Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center, 219 N. Boundary St.

Call 757-229-4949 or go to visitwcac.org for more information.

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