HOLOGRAPHY: Holographic portrait captures image of the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland

Britain’s oldest man, Henry Allingham, has received an unusual honor. He was invited to sit for a holographic portrait, which was unveiled by the Duchess of Gloucester to mark his 110th birthday.

Aug 1st, 2006
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Britain’s oldest man, Henry Allingham, has received an unusual honor. He was invited to sit for a holographic portrait, which was unveiled by the Duchess of Gloucester to mark his 110th birthday.

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Holographic artist and portrait specialist Robert Munday, whose company Spatial Imaging is based in Richmond, England, invited Allingham to sit for a portrait in December 2005. The hologram master was made using a 10 J pulsed ruby laser; a 75 mW HeNe laser was used to transfer the master to a reflection hologram. “We used our conventional pulsed-laser portrait camera. It took a day to build the camera and 30 minutes to record the portrait,” notes Munday. “Exposures with the pulse are 30 ns. It then took several days to make the reflection hologram copies.”

Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 as an aircraft mechanic and acted as an observer and gunner searching for U-boats, Zeppelins, and mines over the North Sea. In May 1916 Allingham witnessed the Battle of Jutland, known as the Battle of Skagerrak in Germany, the biggest naval battle of the First World War. Both sides claimed victory after the battle; the British lost more ships but the German fleet was no longer in a position to put to sea and challenge the British Navy.

“What makes this hologram so special is the fact that it is a celebration of the life of Henry Allingham that spans three centuries,” says Munday. “Having instrumented the very first reconnaissance aircraft camera during World War I and being an accomplished engineer, it seems very fitting that Henry has been immortalized using the latest imaging technology. To create such a portrait, laser light has to strike the person directly and the image recorded; every hair and every blemish of the skin is an exact optical copy of that person. A true hologram is not as much a 3-D facsimile as it is, from an optical point of view, reality itself. When children look at Henry’s portrait they will be looking at the man himself, frozen in time-a man who 90 years ago stood aboard HMT Kingfisher and saw the shells ricocheting across the sea.”

The portrait is currently featured in a new exhibition entitled “The Ghosts of Jutland,” on board London’s HMS Belfast. The exhibition commemorates the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and remembers the 8648 British and German sailors who gave their lives during this epic battle.

Munday currently operates what he claims to be the only holographic portrait studio in the U.K. and one of four in the world. In 2004 he coproduced the first-ever holographic portrait of the Queen of England with artist and designer Chris Levine. His ambition is to build up an archival collection of holographic portraits, preserving the true and unadulterated likeness of the people he selects for posterity.

Bridget Marx

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