Nicolai Howalt, Light Break – Photography / Light Therapy

«Yes, we embody the sun, its hesitation. Yes, we are from the sun and try to be like it. Nutrients and metabolism, we are clorophyll reaching upward.» Morten Søndegaard 


Danish visual artist Nicolai Howalt explores the research of scientist and Nobel laureate Niels Ryberg Finsen’s (1860-1904), based on an original use of chemical rays of light in the treatment of skin diseases. 

Howalt’s fascination for Finsen’s experiments and apparatus is based on the similarities between the basic elements of photography and Finsen’s medical phototherapy. Finsen discovered that invisible light rays, at the periphery of the electromagnetic spectrum, had the property to heal. It is these same rays Howalt is interested in, now taking advantage of the sunlight’s ability to blacken photographic emulsion. By using the same equipment the doctor utilised to carry out his experiments, made available by the Medical Museion of Copenhagen, Howalt let the invisible infrared and ultraviolet rays to slip through the lenses and filters onto photosensitive paper, which he then placed into a large format analogue camera. Each of the stunning colorful abstract plates resulting from Howalt’s experiments is a unique and irreproducible print. In the book, his images follow a selection of archive photographs of Finsen’s medical studies, putting the photographer’s work in continuity to that of the scientist’s.

The volume is completed by a rich section of texts of scientific nature, aimed at extending Howalt’s groundbreaking project to the context of Medical and Art History, as well as three unpublished poems by Danish poet Morten Søndergaard (b. 1964), with whom Howalt shares a fascination for the power of sun and light.

Nicolai Howalt, <em>Light Break - Photography / Light Therapy</em>
256 pp., € 50.00  
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Nicolai Howalt was first featured in Fantom Issue 02, Winter 2010. Read it here