Friday, 9 August 2019

Just one more drop

Without Harold Edgerton's pioneering laboratory strobe work so many things in the natural world just wouldn't be visible. This fascinating book of his photos reveals the unseen in color and mono. His most famous image was the 'Milk drop coronet' taken 1936 (on page fifty-five there's a 1957 color version) though, as the book reveals, Arthur Worthington took a similar but cruder attempt in 1895.

The photos, taken in the laboratory during the early thirties are technically interesting but lack the visual excitement of Edgerton's later work as he developed the flash technique that produced amazing action shots. Page 107 has a 1938 photo of golfer Densmore Shute taken with a flash that fired a hundred times second to reveal the golf club revolving round his body or the 1940 shot of a fan of playing cards leaving a right hand and cascading to a left hand. Some photos just make you stop and stare, for example a 1963 multi-flash photo of a member of the Moscow State Circus on seven-foot stilts doing a backflip or David Tork, in 1964, doing a pole vault, the photo shows him six times as he leaves the ground and drifts over the bar, both of these pictures are in color.

Capturing the rhythm of movement was Edgerton's forte and the book's 158 photos clearly show this. There are four short essays by people who knew him and how he worked and taught at MIT. Steidl have gone the extra mile and reproduced thirty-two pages from his notebooks full of technical drawings, stuck-in photos and handwritten thoughts on setting up various shots, these pages will certainly interest any photographer who does highly technical work other readers will enjoy seeing the unseen.

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