By Katy Cowan
In 1962, Robert Ettinger published The Prospect of Immortality, a book that gave birth to the idea of ‘cryonics’ – the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope that scientific advances might one day restore life. This new book by Brighton-based photographer Murray Ballard is the result of a nine-year investigation into the practice Ettinger inspired.
Also titled The Prospect of Immortality, it documents the small but dedicated international cryonics community from the English seaside retirement town of Peacehaven; through to the high-tech laboratories of Arizona; to the rudimentary facilities of KrioRus, on the outskirts of Moscow. Worldwide there are approximately 200 patients stored permanently in liquid nitrogen, with a further two thousand people signed up for cryonics after death.
The project combines photographs of the technical processes involved in cyronics, alongside portraits of the people engaged in the quest to overcome the “problem of death”. Whilst members have often been ridiculed for their views, Ballard has tried to take an objective stance, allowing the viewer to consider the ethics of the practice, and to decide whether members are caught up in a fantasy world of science fiction, or genuine scientific innovation.
An extract from Robert Ettinger’s The Prospect of Immortality reads: “Clearly, the freezer is more attractive than the grave, even if one has doubts about the future capabilities of science. With bad luck, the frozen people will simply remain dead, as they would have in the grave. But with good luck, the manifest destiny of science will be realised, and the resuscitees will drink the wine of centuries unborn. The likely prize is so enormous that even slender odds would be worth embracing.”
Murray graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in Photography. The following year he was selected for Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 08 – the annual showcase of work by the “most promising recent graduates” at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. In 2011 the British Journal of Photography recognised him as an “emerging photographer of note”, following his debut solo show, The Prospect of Immortality, at Impressions Gallery, Bradford.
Discover more of his work at murrayballard.com. To purchase a copy of Murray’s The Prospect of Immortality, go to gostbooks.com.
Via direct submission