Meet Dr. Laser: The Man Who Still Makes Holograms

Attention, children of the '80s and '90s: It’s nostalgia time. The video above from Great Big Story introduces Jason Arthur Sapan, a holographer also known as Dr. Laser. Placid but opinionated, Dr. Laser has strong views on holograms in our culture—yes, including Tupac's

At Holographic Studios in Manhattan, Dr. Laser and his staff run both the world’s oldest gallery of holography and what they call their “subterranean laser laboratories.” As Dr. Laser explains in the video, even the simplest hologram sticker is the result of advanced science. The video offers just a little taste, but you can learn more about the fascinating physics of holograms here

Holographic Studios offers a wide range of products and services. They’ve created holograms for clients like Tag Heuer, Island Records, and IBM, as well as laser effects for TV shows. They make tamper-evident security holograms for banks, but they also make puzzles, buttons, and magnets. The studio offers class trips and speaking engagements, and has regular gallery hours for those hologram fanatics who just need more. 

Visitors to the Holographic Studios gallery or online shop can purchase high-end holograms of everything from Isaac Asimov, to an unnamed topless lady, to the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. And yes, they even sell stickers.

Header images from YouTube // Great Big Story

By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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