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A thermal insight into Covid-19 captured for future generations

 

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MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Rosie Holland (student). Photo: Julien Behal

MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Rosie Holland (student). Photo: Julien Behal

Prof Sam McConkey. Photo: Julien Behal

Prof Sam McConkey. Photo: Julien Behal

Ciara Kelly. Photo: Julien Behal

Ciara Kelly. Photo: Julien Behal

Claire Byrne. Photo: Julien Behal

Claire Byrne. Photo: Julien Behal

Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

Simon Harris

Simon Harris

HSE’s Paul Reid

HSE’s Paul Reid

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MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE: Rosie Holland (student). Photo: Julien Behal

A new photography exhibition using thermal images has been billed as a 'time capsule for future generations'.

Award-winning photographer Julien Behal's work will go on display in the New Year. He used thermal images of celebrities, politicians, frontline workers and nursing home residents to capture how terrified people felt when the pandemic first hit. "We all remember that initial feeling when we first went outside to supermarkets and walked along empty streets. It was very eerie and surreal," says Mr Behal, whose work has featured on the cover of Time magazine.

"Around that time I came across thermal imagery, one of the tools used in the fight against Covid-19, and I thought the images looked really cool, quite surreal and scary, so I felt it was the perfect way to interpret that feeling through photojournalism."

Mr Behal said he was keen to capture people "whose lives had become intertwined with the virus". He stressed that the portraits are part of a bigger project, which looks at daily life during lockdown in Ireland.

Speaking about the portraits of Ryan Tubridy, Claire Byrne and Dr Ciara Kelly, he said: "At the time, everyone was going down like pins, from our neighbours to the people on our TV screens each night, and I wanted to show that no one was safe. I suppose it's also a new way of looking at someone in a way that we never would have before. It took a lot of trust, it's quite invasive in a way."

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Ryan Tubridy. Photo: Julien Behal

Ryan Tubridy. Photo: Julien Behal

Ryan Tubridy. Photo: Julien Behal

He says the infra-red images are a way of making the invisible visible: "I remember doing a job during the summer and there was a temperature screener at the location. It took my temperature first and I heard a beep which signified I was 'normal'. But then, when it came to the next person, it beeped and he didn't pass the test. And I swear if the ground could have opened and swallowed him whole, he would have jumped in. Everyone was looking at him. It's the same feeling people get when someone coughs near them now and the person tries to stifle it. Immediately people around them become afraid."

The project, which was supported by the Mater Foundation and was months in the making, is in recognition of the efforts of frontline workers. Mr Behal is also in talks with companies to sponsor the exhibition, which he plans to hold on the first anniversary of the lockdown.

Thermal cameras can detect the temperature radiating from a body. The cameras are now being used as a tool to fight Covid-19 after previously being used by fire fighters to track potentially dangerous embers in a dying fire. It has also been used by police to hunt out-of-sight suspects. In a thermogram, the brighter colours (red, orange, and yellow) indicate warmer temperatures while the purples and dark blue and black indicate cooler temperatures.

Explaining why the colour and size of the aura changes from person to person, Mr Behal said: "One of the things you can notice is that if you breathe more through your nose, which is apparently the safer way to breathe because you are filtering the air, then your nose will be bluer or blacker in the portraits. Make-up is another reason for differentiation."

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Josephine Silo. Photo: Julien Behal

Josephine Silo. Photo: Julien Behal

Josephine Silo. Photo: Julien Behal

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