Every transhuman has an origin story. For Rob Spence, 45, a shotgun accident at the age of nine left his right eye severely damaged. At 34, under his doctor’s orders, the eye was removed.
It was then Spence set out on a mission to become Earth’s first “eyeborg”. “I would never have been into body hacking if I didn’t lose my eye,” he says. “I loved The Six Million Dollar Man when I was a kid, so the minute I learned that I was losing my eye, I began researching how I could turn it into a camera.”
Spence’s bionic eye is one of the many stories being explored by photographer David Vintiner and creative director Gem Fletcher in the ongoing Transhuman series. Since 2015, the pair have been capturing the biohackers, body modifiers, DIY scientists and academics enhancing human capability beyond our biological limits.
“These people are expanding their sphere of how they experience the world,” Vintiner says. “They’re going off on a completely different tangent and embracing those possibilities. They are doing it and living with it, so Transhuman looks at the human stories and the psychologies behind them.”
The work is being turned into a book and a documentary, which will feature around 60 people and their stories. “We want to capture people in a domestic setting to draw attention to the normality of it all in today’s world,” Fletcher says.
“We’re so disconnected as people and to our own senses that the initial reaction to those we photographed may be of confusion, but it’s not about these people distancing themselves from being a human or humanity itself. It’s about becoming more connected with the world.”
While access to technology is making body hacking more democratised by the day, it’s also raising important ethical questions. “I replaced my eye with a camera, which seems innocent enough, but what does that mean for other people’s privacy?” Spence says.
For others, it remains a fun way to experience the world differently. “I wanted to feel electromagnetic fields, so when I move my hand near a running microwave the magnets in my hands vibrate slightly,” says Rin Räuber, 33, who has magnetic implants in her hands (one under a fingertip on her right hand and another on the edge of her left hand).
“I can pick up bottle caps, screws and spoons. That’s not too useful in everyday life, but what I do is not rooted in a grand vision for the future of humanity. It’s like a child playing around, saying: ‘Hey, look at what we can do, isn’t this cool?'”