The Aided Eye Gallery

Today through scientific and technological innovations, we are able to view images of ourselves that were not previously possible.  How have these images come to define our culture?

Much of our global visual culture includes images that would never be visible without the aid of technology. Images commonplace to us today would have been unimaginable by humans a few centuries ago. Our natural world has been revealed to us in deeper ways through the development of technology. How have these images affected our culture now that we can see inside ourselves, what we are made of, what is going on inside our bodies, and how our lifestyles may affect our insides?

For instance, a smoker can realize the impact of their choice to smoke by viewing an x-ray of their body or photo of a smoker's lungs, viewing the destruction of their lungs. How could these images change or alter our society in terms of lifestyles and personal values? Can these images change the way we view ourselves, or do we become distanced from our interiors because we cannot physically see our insides without a special photograph? How do these images affect the way in which we view other people?

Cork cells as physicist Robert Hooke may have seen them in 1665 with an early microscope. He is said to have named the tiny structures "cells" because they reminded him of monastery chambers. How can this image define our culture?

With the recent mapping of the human genome and discussion about genetic engineering, images of DNA, the material that provides genetic instruction for all organisms, have become ubiquitous. Doe these images visually construct identity?

DNA as seen under a microscope; a DNA model from


The iconographic "earthrise" photograph, taken by the Apollo 8 crew in 1968, brought a new visual perspective of our world. How has the ability to view the world beyond our perception changed our values as a culture?


The Hubble Space Telescope has been one of the most important instruments in astronomy, providing the most detailed images of space that humans have ever witnessed. This early Hubble photograph of Saturn, taken in 1990, illustrates how telescopes have visually brought distant objects right in front of our eyes. Does this image represent the world around you?

In addition to bringing far away objects closer, technology has made our bodies visible in ways never before possible.

This image from is of the first human X-ray, taken by Wilhelm Konrad Roentgren in 1896. X-rays soon became a mainstay of modern visual culture; one of the earliest applications of X-ray technology was the development of the "shoe-fitting fluoroscope," which allowed patrons in shoe stores to X-ray their feet to determine shoe size. (Due to radiation concerns, these machines were banned in the U.S. by the 1960s!)


Ultrasound images of fetuses can be found today on cubicle walls and refrigerator doors, as they represent a couple's first visual image of their baby. Medical ultrasonography was first used in 1953 and applied as a safer alternative to MRI and CT scanning.


Thermal imaging converts infrared energy into a visible display. Thermography has a wide variety of industrial applications including medical imaging, firefighting, and construction. Cadillac DeVilles sold from 2000-2005 included a thermal imaging night vision system, bringing thermography into the daily life of the luxury car owner. How do these images imply status within our culture?

Satellite technology has enabled us to visualize Earth more accurately than ever before. Google Maps Satellite View feature, introduced in 2005, has become a popular way to visualize geographic data.

The widespread viewing of satellite images through Google Maps has drawn attention to many locations that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, such as this swastika-shaped building, part of the Coronado Naval Amphibious base near San Diego. (The Navy is currently working on plans to redesign the barracks.)

Film and video have offered new ways for us to visualize the world by freeing human eyes from the constraints of time.


This famous sequenced set of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, settled the 1870's debate over whether all four of a horse's legs left the ground while it was trotting. It also provides one of the earliest examples of slow-motion film.

A more recent slow-motion video is a fascinating look at a bullet passing through various substances, slowing the event down so that we can see the nuances of the impact.

Conversely, time-lapse photography (similar to stop-motion animation) speeds up slow natural processes to a rate at which we can perceive them.

Collected here is just a sampling of examples of the visual world of the aided human eye. Such images, now commonplace, would have been inconceivable a few centuries ago - some even a few decades ago. Technology will undoubtedly continue to shape our visual culture by making visible that which the naked eye cannot perceive.

For further Information/Exploration:

The horizon of the aided eye by Luc Courchesne (portion of Master's Thesis) for more images from the Hubble Space Telescope

Molecular Expressions (TM) Photo Gallery for more microscopic images, organized by category

X-Ray Gallery at

Collection of Super-Slow-Motion Clips by Dr. Dave