On the Trail of Some Human Heat. Thermal Imaging, Visual Culture and the Covid-19 Pandemic


  • Lorenzo Donghi University of Pavia
  • Simona Pezzano Università IULM, Milano




Infra-Red Imaging, Thermal Imaging, Body Heat, Visual Culture, Covid-19 Pandemic


The paper is divided into two main aims. In the first part, it wants to investigate the presence of thermal imaging in the context of contemporary visual culture, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when thermal imaging widely demonstrated how currently optics models of vision are increasingly accompanied by thermal models of visualisation. The result of the latter is thermography: at the same time, a process that transforms our epistemic relationship with reality, extending the possibilities of visualising information beyond the limits of the visible spectrum; and an image that maintains the indexical bound with its referent, but that is conceived as the outcome of an elaborated and displayed dataset. In the second part, the paper focuses on the artistic field in which thermal vision gained further relevance in the context of the pandemic. On the one hand, the artists have criticised and deconstructed it; on the other hand, they have relaunched its use in a biopolitical horizon, such as in the case of the photographic project Virus (2020), in which Antoine d’Agata roamed the deserted streets of Paris and visited some intensive care units with a thermal camera, during the first national lockdown in 2020.

Author Biographies

Lorenzo Donghi, University of Pavia

Lorenzo Donghi is an Assistant Professor (RTD-B) at the University of Pavia and collaborates with the IULM University of Milan. He deals with visual and film studies, he carried out research on contemporary war representation (Scenari della guerra al terrore, Bulzoni 2016) and he is part of Self Media Lab, a study center based at the University of Pavia, which examines self-portraiture phenomena present in the new media scenario. Recently he co-edited two books: Al presente. Segni, immagini, rappresentazioni della memoria (Pavia: University Press, 2017) and A mezzi termini. Forme della contaminazione dal XX secolo (Milan: Mimesis, 2019).

Simona Pezzano, Università IULM, Milano

Simona Pezzano is divided between research at the IULM University of Milan and different international cooperation projects co-funded by the European Commission. Her main interest is in the visual studies field. She is part of the Self Media Lab, created and directed by Federica Villa. She is member of the Editorial staff of Cinéma & Cie. Her latest publications: Campo lungo. Memoria visuale dall’archivio della Lega di Cultura di Piadena (Milan: Mimesis, 2020); ‘Giochi di rifrazioni, diffrazioni e atmosfere luminose’, in CINEma oltre, ed. by L. Cardone, E. Marcheschi and G. Simi (Milan: Postmedia Books, 2021).




How to Cite

Donghi, L., & Pezzano, S. (2023). On the Trail of Some Human Heat. Thermal Imaging, Visual Culture and the Covid-19 Pandemic. Cinéma & Cie. Film and Media Studies Journal, 22(39), 83–98. https://doi.org/10.54103/2036-461X/17818