In 1962 Robert Ettinger’s book The Prospect of Immortality gave birth to the idea of ‘cryonics’. Half a century later Murray Ballard has undertaken an extensive photographic investigation of the practice Ettinger inspired.
Ettinger’s book explored the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope scientific advances might one day restore life.
At the time he wrote: “The likely prize is so enormous that even slender odds would be worth embracing.”
Ballard, who is taking over Spectrum Photographic’s Instagram this week, has now released a book of the same name – a project he began in 2006.
He takes the viewer on a journey through the small but dedicated international cryonics community. From the English seaside town of Peacehaven, through the high-tech laboratories of Arizona, to the rudimentary facilities of KrioRus, on the outskirts of Moscow.
Worldwide, around 200 patients are stored permanently in liquid nitrogen. A further 2,000 are signed up for cryonics after death.
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. Robert CW Ettinger
The book combines photographs of the technical processes involved, alongside portraits of the people engaged in the quest to overcome the ‘problem of death’.
While members have often been ridiculed for their views, Ballard takes an objective stance.
He allows the viewer to consider the ethics then decide whether members are caught up in a world of fantasy science fiction or genuine scientific innovation.
Murray Ballard is a British photographer based in Brighton.
He graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in Photography.
Ballard was selected for Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 08 – a showcase of work by the ‘most promising recent graduates’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London.
In 2011, the British Journal of Photography recognised him as ‘one to watch’, following his debut solo show, The Prospect of Immortality, at Impressions Gallery, Bradford.
The exhibition has since been shown nationally and internationally.
Get the book
The Prospect of Immortality, priced £35, is published by GOST.
Signed copies are available from Murray Ballard’s website.
All images © Murray Ballard
Main image: Aaron Drake, Medical Response Director, prepares stabilisation medications to be used during the initial stages of a cryopreservation. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona, August 2009.
Article copy editing by Sheena Campbell.