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Associate Professor Paula Dawson

Associate Professor Paula Dawson


Associate Professor Paula Dawson is one of the world's leading holographers. Through her art, she explores new dimensions of visuality, which combine digital and optical realities in new and profound ways. She has lead a series of research projects funded by the Australian Research Council, and is an ARC Future Fellow at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW.

Dawson began with a specialisation in conceptual art at RMIT University and Melbourne State College. Her interest in light and temporality lead to the construction of small holograms. In 1978, she took up a residency at Laboratoire de Physique Generale et d’ Optique in Besancon, France, where her first major holographic work There’s No Place Like Home was made in collaboration with Nicole Aebischer, Bernard Carquille and Claudine Bainier. A series of large-scale hologram installations technically authored by Dawson followed, including Eidola Suite (1985) and To Absent Friends (1988).

Dawson joined the College of Fine Arts, UNSW in 1990, where she gained her doctorate in 2000. In 1994, she was selected to receive a four year Australian Artist Creative Fellowship. This was partly spent at the Media Lab MIT, under supervision of Stephen Benton—the inventor of the rainbow hologram—and at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Cambridge, Massachussetts. Dawson is the only Australian artist to have been made a Fellow of the Centre of Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. 

Dawson has a remarkable record of innovation, being the first to:

  • record a hologram of architectural-scale interiors with a continuous-wave laser
  •  record holograms of real, full-scale (life-sized) domestic objects, e.g. an entire household backyard (including car and above-ground swimming pool) without laboratory-controlled vibration isolation and using continuous wave lasers
  • incorporate a pulsed hologram portrait in a double exposure as an identifiable element

​Dawson also pioneered a completely new application for hologram technology: hand embossing from a holographic shim for integrating a hologram into a bronze-casting. Dawson is currently collaborating with Masa Takatsuka, Hiroshi Yoshikawa, and Brian Rogers to develop new software, Holoshop, which will enable the subtle nuances of users' three-dimensional gestures to be recorded with the sensitivity associated with traditional materials (e.g. pencils and paper) with a haptic device.

Current appointment(s)

Director, Holography Lab
ARC Future Fellow, College of Fine Arts, UNSW
Research Fellow, Centre for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT
Honorary Associate, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, University of Sydney