Holography in High Def

Photo by David Khorassani.

In the basement of the Student Union Building at SUNY New Paltz, the first holographic movie is on display, featuring Salvador Dali and Alice Cooper.

On Thursday, March 10, cinematographer Hart Perry came to campus to show a number of holographic films that he made in partnership with hologram revolutionary Rudie Berkhout. He discussed the machine he built to make these groundbreaking movies. The event coincided with the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art exhibition “The Floating World: Holograms by Rudie Berkhout.”

According to physics and astronomy professor Catherine Herne, the Dorsky curator Daniel Belasco connected her with Perry after becoming aware of her class, Seeing the Light. The natural science general education course focuses on the study of light, vision and art. Perry spoke with Herne about possible events that he could do with her class and a broader audience.

“I just love how the Dorsky has this exhibit of holograms which are art,” Herne said. “It’s cool for my students to see holograms presented as art.”

After an introduction from Herne, Perry took the stage and began producing thin translucent sheets of silver halide film and mounting them on a foreign black stand that resembled a tripod. Perry would say a few words about each hologram on exhibit, have the audience walk around them and then discuss the science behind his art.

“Essentially, this will be a show and tell,” Perry said. “I will show you some holograms, and then I will tell you how they are made.”

The first holograph he showed depicted Marcello Mastroianni taking a drag from a cigarette. As the onlooker walks from right to left they see him perform the act of inhaling the smoke and then releasing it into red, green and blue splendor. Next, Perry presented a hologram of a computer-animated image, followed by a topless woman attempting to cover up and then a man leaping.

Perry said that typical holograms are limiting because they don’t move and they can’t be of people. Therefore, he films the people first or takes pictures of them and then creates a hologram out of the footage.

“Holograms are an image made with laser light,” Perry said. “The thing I did is cheat so you can show people and movement.”

All the while his famous Dali and Cooper holographic film is spinning on the plastic table adjacent to this rotating spectacle of art and science. Perry said that by 1972, he began filming music videos for Cooper. When he was asked to make the first holographic movie with these two icons, it just made sense.

“It was like working with an old Spanish guy,” Perry said. “When an audience came around, he became Dali and spoke in five different languages and put on a robe and crown.”

Third-year art education major Kaitlyn Niznik is enrolled in Herne’s class and attended the event. Niznik said that they just started studying holograms in class.

“I loved it,” she said. “Seeing a very successful hologram was awesome.”