Pigment print on Hahnemühle cotton rag, framed
173cm x 160cm
Edition of 6 + 2 AP

Transillumination is a photographic project comprised of hundreds of self-portraits created by capturing the transmission of light through different parts of my body. The work is a result of experimentation with mobile phone photography to create new and unexpected interpretations of portraiture—specifically the selfie. Transillumination of the skin is performed to visualise subsurface blood volume and blood oxygen saturation; however, by repeating the process—there are seven hundred and fifty photos in total—the effect is subsumed to create an ambiguous sequence of images that exist somewhere between art and life, and the organic and inorganic. There’s nothing more intimate than a blood portrait—in a way, it’s the ultimate selfie. However, equally, there’s nothing less ordinary than a mobile phone selfie. I view the work, which itself is a hybrid process between performance and photography, as both an abstract self-portrait and binary landscape. Viewing it like this displaces the human/non-human duality and reflects upon the shifting boundaries between bodies and technologies, and humans and machines.


“I think this work perfectly encapsulates how artists can ignite our capacity for wonder. Kailum takes the ubiquitous technology of the mobile phone to probe complex ideas and philosophical questions. Through 750 individual ‘selfie photos’ of light passing through different body parts, taken on his mobile phone, he interrogates some of the anxieties around ideas of embodiment and dislocation in our contemporary lives. His approach is scientific and cross-disciplinary, bordering painting, photography, and performance practices. In the images, he carefully records a seemingly invisible world, an unfamiliar viewpoint or perspective of our bodies, or in this case his body, and strives to understand what might lie beyond it. The title of the work Transillumination refers to a medical test performed in a dark room where a bright light is shown on the body to see the structures beneath the skin. On the surface the work seems easy to read—an abstract photographic image—but on closer inspection you will find that the artist draws up a myriad of artistic, scientific, and theoretical approaches to achieve his highly refined poetic ends.”

Vanessa Van Ooyen, Senior Curator
QUT Art Museum & William Robinson Gallery
Queensland University of Technology