©Carlo Van de Roer
The Portrait Machine Project
This project explores the idea that a camera can reveal an otherwise unseen insight into a subject's character and their relationship with the photographer and viewer. These portraits are made with a Polaroid aura camera developed in the 1970s by an American scientist in an attempt to record what a psychic might see.
The subject is connected to the camera by sensors measuring electromagnetic biofeedback. It translates these readings into information about the subject and how they are seen by the photographer and others -- suggesting the camera bypasses the control of the photographer and subject in making the portrait. The camera generates a printed description of these views of the subject which are also depicted aesthetically in the Polaroid. This printout is presented to the viewer along with each photograph in a similar manner to a caption.
The aura camera has undertones of pseudo-scientific authority and attributes associated with a less mediated type of photography. It's a modified land camera that uses instant film and has only one button, allowing the photographer little control over the mechanisms mediating the portrait making process.
Aura photography is a relatively recent offshoot of spirit photography. Unlike attempts to record images of ghosts, aura photography evolved from a type of spirit photography - popular around the time diagnostic imaging devices like the x-ray emerged -- which sought to objectively measure and document unseen aspects of the human body.
I am photographing people who are familiar to me, or that I have expectations of -- including family, friends and people whose personalities are in the public sphere.