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"I received a nice letter the other day from the Dalai Lama. He had read 'The Nine Billion Names of God'. It is about a computer at a Tibetan monastery."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Photosensitive Pigment  
  Special paint that stays 'blank' until exposed to a scene.  

Robert Melville's sand schooner developed problems; he was picked up by a beautiful woman and taken back to her island home. The strange story of this woman and her companions slowly surfaces in a series of unique paintings.

As I looked at the empty surface of the fresh canvas she ordered brought down from her studio, I wondered what image of me would emerge from its blank pigments. Like all paintings produced in Vermillion Sands at that time, it would not actually need the exercise of the painter's hand. Once the pigments had been selected, the photosensitive paint would produce an image of whatever still life or landscape it was exposed to. Although a lengthy process, requiring an exposure of four or five days, it had the immense advantage that there was no need for the subject's continuous presence. Given a few hours each day, the photosensitive pigments would anneal themselves into the contours of a likeness.

This discontinuity was responsible for the entire charm and magic of these paintings. Instead of a mere photographic replica, the movements of the sitter produced a series of multiple projections, perhaps with the analytic forms of cubism, or, less severely, a pleasant impressionistic blurring. However, these unpredictable variations on the face and form of the sitter were often disconcerting in their perception of character.

From Cry Hope, Cry Fury!, by J.G. Ballard.
Published by Mercury Publications, Inc. in 1966
Additional resources -

As you might imagine, this last characteristic of photosensitive pigments gives great latitude to a talented writer. Ballard puts together a terrific story with this plot "device."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Cry Hope, Cry Fury!
  More Ideas and Technology by J.G. Ballard
  Tech news articles related to Cry Hope, Cry Fury!
  Tech news articles related to works by J.G. Ballard

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