Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wes Fesler Kicking a Football

Artist:Harold “Doc” Edgerton (American, 1903–1990)
Title:Wes Fesler Kicking a Football  Date:1935  Medium:Gelatin silver print

In this photograph Harold Edgerton captured the instant the a football contracts at the moment of impact with a kicker's foot. Edgerton, an electrical engineer and photographer, was the father of high speed photography. He invented stop-action, high-speed photography and used this method to create a body of work that is revered for its scientific advancement as well as aesthetic qualities. In the late 1920's Edgerton studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he used a stroboscope-an instrument also known as a strobe, used to make a cyclically moving object appear to be slow-moving, or stationary. Edgerton was a pioneer in strobe photography. He used the technique to capture images of athletes competing, hummingbirds hovering, bullets bursting balloons, and blood coursing through capillaries. His "Coronet" milk drop photo was featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art's first photography exhibit.

What fascinates me the most about Doc Edgerton's photographs is not the aesthetic qualities or the fact that we might find ourselves saying, “Oh cool that's what fruit looks like just before it explodes.” What is fascinating is that at this time, what Edgerton captured in this photographs was new information to people. His art created revelations about the laws of nature, physics and motion! Not only did he pave the way for the modern electronic flash, he gave physicists a new means of analyzing the dynamics of fluids, air currents, and engines. The US Army  commissioned him to develop a super powered flash for aerial photography. Edgerton's system allowed airplanes to do nocturnal reconnaissance, which helped document Axis troop movements under cover of darkness during WWII. After
the War Edgerton and his colleagues designed timing and firing systems for atomic bomb testing, and invented a camera that could photograph an atomic explosion from seven miles away! Also from his work we acquired high-powered strobe lights that gave us inventions from lighthouses to copying machines. Edgerton changed the way I looked at photography. Although I knew he was good photographer who took “Neat-O” pictures, I failed to notice that Edgerton was also an engineer, and inventor and a pioneer who brought new knowledge to the world through his photographs. 

"Through his marvelous medium, he has captured and revealed new beauty and
order in both nature and industry." 

                          -Boston Museum of Science 

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