We investigate optical transmission through individual nanometer-sized holes in opaque metal films using scanning near-field optical microscopy. We show unambiguously that excitation and lateral propagation of surface plasmons support the light transmission through these nanoholes. The direction of the surface plasmon propagation is given by the light polarization, thus controlled addressing of individual holes is possible. In addition, we find characteristic interference effects due to scattering of surface plasmons off holes.

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