Diffractions: Holography at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies

Eric Begleiter, CAVS Student 1982 – 1984, CAVS Fellow 1984 – 1985

Diffractions: Holography at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies
On exhibit November 12 – 29, 2019

What is a hologram?

A hologram is a 2-dimensional image that contains all the 3-dimensional information of an object. When viewing a hologram, you can tilt the image and see the orientation of the shape move. It’s as if you see the object in the picture from a different angle.

This is achieved through the interference patterns in light waves. The process involves using a laser — so all of the light has exactly the same wavelength — and reflecting it off of the object onto a film.

Holography involves an encoding of the light field as an interference pattern of variations in the opacity, density, or surface profile of the photographic medium. When suitably lit by ambient or laser light, the interference pattern diffracts the light and the objects exhibit visual depth cues such as parallax and perspective that change realistically with the relative position of the observer. That is, the view of the image from different angles represents the subject viewed from similar angles.

A number of CAVS fellows used holography in their art practice, including Betsy Connors, Attila Csaji, Dov Eylath, Friedrich St. Florian, Susan Gamble, Rockne Krebs, Seth Riskin, Don Thornton, and Sally Weber.

The artists featured in this exhibit are

Types of Holograms

Laser transmission holograms are viewed by shining laser light through them and looking at the reconstructed image from the side of the hologram opposite the source. (See work by Paula Dawson and Setsuko Ishii)

Rainbow transmission holograms, invented by CAVS director Stephen Benton, allows more convenient illumination by white light rather than by lasers. Rainbow holograms are commonly used for security and authentication, for example, on credit cards, cash, and product packaging. (See work by Stephen Benton, and your wallet)

Reflection holograms are viewed using a white-light illumination source on the same side of the hologram as the viewer and is the type of hologram normally seen in holographic displays. They are also capable of multicolor-image reproduction. (See work by Harriet Casdin-Silver, Eric Begleiter, and Lowry Burgess)

Solar Tracked holography, pioneered by Harriet Casdin-Silver, is a form of reflection holography that relies on the changing diffraction (bending) of sunlight to alter an image’s spectral colors. (See work by Harriet Casdin-Silver)

Computer-generated holography is the method of digitally generating holographic interference patterns. A holographic image can be generated by digitally computing a holographic interference pattern and printing it onto a mask or film for subsequent illumination by suitable coherent light source. (See work by Dieter Jung)

Photographing a hologram

Because holograms depend on light diffraction for viewing, every photograph of a hologram is slightly different depending on both the angle and the proximity of the photographer to the photograph.

The Center for Advanced Visual Studies Special Collection holds only images of holograms created by CAVS fellows. However The MIT Museum, which holds the most comprehensive collection of holograms worldwide, has many of the featured holograms in their collection. They are frequently on view in various exhibits.

Curated by Project Archivist, Thera Webb.


  • act reading room (e15-223)
    20 Ames Street
    Cambridge, MA 02142