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The world unseen: Photography as a probe of particulate materiality

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This article examines the role of photography in the scientific discovery of cosmic radiation and antimatter, showing how a visual medium designed to react to photons was successfully coopted to detect invisible particles and antiparticles through traces left by their collision, so-called annihilation events. The continuous presence of cosmic radiation means that every photograph is always already a double image, carrying both a visible surface formed by photons and a latent image carrying traces of cosmic rays, the latter ‘image’ continuing in its perpetual state of ‘development’. It is the physical irregularity of the photograph exposed to the continuous and uniform shower of cosmic radiation that leads Doser to speculate on image formation not through an external referent but through the internal manipulation of the material substrate.
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Keywords: annihilation; antimatter; astrophotography; cosmic rays; latent image; particle acceleration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CERN

Publication date: 01 October 2016

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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