May 16, 2012 2:00 PM EDT

Canadian photographer Jessica Eaton uses her camera to create color invisible to the naked eye. She gives bright hues to gray forms in her series Cubes for Albers and LeWitt, and that work was recently awarded the photography prize at the 2012 Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography—a prize for which TIME’s director of photography Kira Pollack sat on the jury.

"You click. We stack. You get." Google has long encouraged users of its Gmail service to archive, rather than delete, their e-mail. But paper archives too? That was the idea behind the 2007 launch of Gmail Paper, which promised to provide on-demand printed copies of e-mails for users. The massive costs of printing and shipping would be offset by advertisements on the back of each sheet, printed in "red, bold, 36-pt. Helvetica." The hoax website lives on today. But paper lovers beware — there's still no word on how Google planned to handle the Viagra ads and Nigerian e-mail scams that would undoubtedly clutter every shipment.
Jessica Eaton

“We’ve all mixed two colors of paint together, and either it makes another color or, if you keep going, it gets muddy and progressively gets darker,” she explains. “In light, things work really differently.” Eaton explains that she exploits the properties of light through additive color separation: whereas the primary pigment colors (red, blue, yellow) get darker as they blend, the primary colors of light (red, blue, green) move toward white. Eaton applies filters in those three colors to her camera and takes multiple exposures, a process that turns the gray form seen here into the vibrant ones seen above. “The color itself is mixed inside the camera,” she says.

One of the byproducts of Eaton’s process is an element of surprise: because her images are created within the camera, she doesn’t know what she’ll get until the photos are developed. “It’s a bit of a conversation with the world,” she says. “With the forces of time and space and contingency and errors that happen, because often there’s so many steps going into one of these, I get back something that’s also new to me, and those are the pictures that tend to end up in exhibits.”

Speaking at the United Nations in September, President Barack Obama emphasized his commitment to a peace deal to solve the knotty Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians had taken risks by restarting the process last July, Obama said, adding: "Now the rest of us must also be willing to take risks." So far, Obama hasn't actually assumed much risk. He has mostly hung back while Secretary of State John Kerry conducted months of frenetic diplomacy. But in recent weeks it's become clear that Kerry's efforts are approaching a dead end. And it now appears that Obama may be willing to take his first real risk. The risk is named Jonathan Pollard. He currently resides in a federal prison in Butner, N.C. Pollard is a Jewish-American who, while serving as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, passed American secrets to the Israelis. In 1985, he was sentenced to life in prison—a sentence that many Israelis and some American Jews consider excessive, cruel and potentially tainted by anti-Semitism. Now the Obama administration is considering releasing Pollard from prison as an incentive to keep the Israelis at the peace table, according to reports from multiple U.S. and Israeli news outlets And so a convicted spy who many Americans have never heard of has entered the picture because the peace process is on the brink of collapse. The current negotiations began last year on the basis of an agreement between the parties: The Israelis would release 104 Palestinian prisoners, in four installments, and the Palestinians would hold off on plans to seek statehood recognition from international bodies. The arrangement was to last until April 29, by which time the goal was for at least a partial agreement that would keep the two sides talking. But there's been scant progress toward an agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners—which was supposed to happen by Monday. Netanyahu has no desire to set free people he sees as violent criminals only to see the talks peter out at the end of April, with nothing to show for the domestically unpopular action. Enter Pollard. Leading Israelis and American Jews have long pressed for Pollard's release. So have prominent non-Jewish national security figures, including George P. Shultz, who served as Secretary of State in the Reagan administration at the time Pollard was convicted, and Lawrence Korb, a former Regan assistant secretary of defense now at the liberal Center for American Progress, who argues that Pollard "has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted"—in part, Korb writes, because of a mistaken belief at the time of his sentencing that information he sold to Israeli had made its way to the Soviet Union. [video id=zybkPZuz ] Now it appears that Obama is dangling Pollard's release as a means of persuading Netanyahu to make the final prisoner release, and perhaps to offer other concessions, including a potential settlement freeze, that would revitalize the talks. To understand Obama's calculation, it's worth looking back at the last time a U.S. president seriously entertained Pollard's release. During the October 1998 Wye River Summit, Bill Clinton considered a request from Netanyahu—then serving his first of two stints at prime minister—to release Pollard in return for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. Netanyahu told Clinton he needed Pollard's release to appease the right wing of his political coalition, for whom Pollard's release has long been a nationalistic cause (although Pollard has more recently won support across the Israeli political spectrum). Dennis Ross, who was then Clinton's top Middle East negotiator later wrote in a memoir that he told the president Pollard was seen as a "soldier" for Israeli, adding that "there is an ethos in Israel that you never leave a soldier behind in the field." Ross, who went on to work for the Obama White House, also told Clinton that Pollard "had received a harsher sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes." Still, Ross advised against tying Pollard's release to an agreement, arguing that if Clinton were to do so, he should only use Pollard as a chit to seal a final peace agreement much later in the process. Clinton pursued the idea anyway. What finally snuffed it was then-CIA Director George Tenet's vow to resign. The New York Times reported that Tenet believed "he would lose his credibility with his rank-and-file in the intelligence community if he were to agree to Mr. Pollard's release from his life sentence." Clinton ultimately backed away from a Pollard deal. In the end, Obama may do the same. After all, it can't be any easier to grant clemency to a man convicted of espionage in the post-Edward Snowden world. And Dennis Ross might also apply his logic from 1998 to the present situation—arguing, perhaps, that the Pollard card is too important to play short of the very last push to a final agreement. But there's also evidence that, without some kind of dramatic U.S. intervention, the peace process will fail. That could dash any prospect for a foreign policy breakthrough in Obama's presidency. The question now is whether Obama decides the risk of releasing Jonathan Pollard outweighs the risk of watching the peace process die.
Jessica Eaton

Her work in other series, samples of which are also included in this gallery, may use different techniques (for example, Spectrum is the product of covering a window with gels, as shown here), but they all come back to experimentation with light and color. That experimentation is something that she has been building toward throughout her career. Eaton says that when she began taking pictures, in 1998, her work tended toward documentary and portrait photography. But even then, working in the dark room, she says that she felt a push to test different processes and see what would happen. She was aware of the science of light at work even in what she calls “normal” photographs, aware that subject and content buried those phenomena, preventing viewers from seeing what was there. In 2006, her work shifted and she began to bring those hidden elements to the forefront. She isolated light and color and time, even though to do so was to challenge the classical definition of photography as a way to capture a single moment. Her multiple exposures—as in Quantum Pong, which comprises four exposures of more than 500 ping-pong balls that had been dropped 20 feet—allow her to leave that definition behind. “In most of these photographs, what you’re looking at is more than one moment,” she says. “They aren’t static moments of time. They’re layers of time.”

But the photographer likes challenging definitions, and not just photographic ones. Although she dislikes the term “abstract” as a description of her work—it implies that the light she captures doesn’t exist in reality—Eaton says that her photographs acknowledge “how incredibly limited our ability to perceive the world is.” We lack the sensory mechanisms to see her colors with our naked eyes, and Eaton sees that as a metaphor for our inability to see the extent of the physical universe, whether it includes multiple dimensions or parallel universes. And, in that metaphor, she sees hope. “I love the idea that no matter how bad it gets,” she says, “there’s this wild so-called reality way beyond what we have decided it is.”

Jessica Eaton is a Canadian photographer. Her work will be presented in a solo show at next year’s Hyères festival. See more of her work here or here.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Write to Lily Rothman at

You May Also Like