As debut projects go, Murray Ballard could scarcely have chosen a more intriguing subject than cryonics. The practice of preserving dead bodies at very low temperatures, in the hope of bringing them back to life far in the future, is commonly thought to exist only in science fiction, where it is generally known by its technically inaccurate name of “cryogenic freezing”.
Yet as Ballard (no relation to his namesake, the sci-fi author JG) discovered during his five- year investigation, hundreds of people around the world have already invested in what he has calls “The Prospect of Immortality”.
The 27-year-old began documenting cryonicists while studying photography at the University of Brighton, after he discovered there was a group of British believers based just along the Sussex coast in Peacehaven. He was soon making much longer excursions, his work taking him to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona three times, the rival Cryonics Institute in Michigan twice, and the burgeoning Kriorus facility just outside Moscow on a further two occasions.
Having worked as an assistant to Magnum photographer Mark Power for four years, Ballard is now looking at biotechnology for his first commission, which will be shown as part of the British Science Festival. He revels in the “honesty” that working with a large format camera allows.
“You’re not saying, ‘Look at this bit of the picture’, you’re saying all of it is equally as important, and all of the details are there to piece together meaning and narrative,” he explains.
Power was on hand last month to formerly open Ballard’s first major solo exhibition at Impressions in Bradford, featuring Ballard’s images of the people involved in this pursuit of real-life resurrection, and the equipment to which they are entrusting their dreams of everlasting life.
The Prospect of Immortality by Murray Ballard is on show at Side Gallery from 0 March – 30 April. The images in the exhibition are taken from a larger touring show, which was originally commissioned by Impressions Gallery and curated by director Anne McNeill. www.amber-online.com murrayballard.com Ballard also published a book of the project last year with GOST Books
This text was originally published as part of the Ones to Watch series of articles on emerging photographers in July 2011. This issue is now sold out, but other back issues can be bought at www.thebjpshop.com