Photographer of the Day: Harold E. Edgerton

Harold E. Edgerton

b. 1903, d. 1990

The combination of the arts and sciences is something that seems relatively new, but, spoiler alert: it’s not. Also, next time someone tells you that we don’t need the arts, I want you to calmly point out Edgerton, and then lock them in an art gallery for a week.

Edgerton was one of those people who made you feel really, really insignificant, because he was so awesome. You know what I’m talking about. Dude was a professor of electrical engineering at MIT. And he did photography– like, c’mon man, what are you? I mean, he grew up in Nebraska, so he must have been bored, so maybe that’s why he’s good at everything.

So, you know those photos of like, water splashing or a bubble popping or an apple being massacred by a bullet? Edgerton and his buddy Gjon Mili (who we will discuss another day,) were the ones responsible for this. Mili used strobes for his work, and so Edgerton was like, “let me try this out, bro.”* These studio flash units could fire 120 flashes per second. Eddie here (just roll with me on the impromptu nickname,) used this to his advantage, because, c’mon of course you have a shot at capturing a bullet at 1/120th of a second (also did you see my pun?)

The apple is my self esteem and the bullet is Eddie’s work.

Something deep? These photos are oftentimes a dialogue about violence against the person. So, let’s drop some science and some tortured artist business in one go.

Eddie received awards from the Royal Photographic Society and Optical Society of America, among many other accolades. But, our friend Eddie here wasn’t done being a flippin’ genius. He and his other genius buddies developed the Rapatronic camera, photographed nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s, and then this dude was responsible for side-scan technology for scanning the ocean floor for stuff, because he was into that sort of thing. He was like, “Yo, Cousteau, I know you like explorin’ the sea and I too like the sea so here have some underwater photography equipment with a super nifty flash and go to town. Do it for me science, bro. For the science.”*

And just when you thought this man couldn’t get any cooler– he also won an Oscar for his short film, Quicker’n a Wink. Because he could.

The nice thing about Eddie is that he was a kind individual who loved teaching. “The trick to education,” he said, “is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they’re learning until it’s too late.” Can I have him as a professor? Because he sounds awesome.

That’s about it for Henry E. Edgerton, Papa Flash, the man who made time stand still (which is what he was dubbed by National Geographic– I’m telling you, this guy was unreal.) The next PotD will be Bernard Faucon.

Happy Shooting!

* These dialogues are totally fictional, but you never know, Eddie might have loved calling people “bro.”

 

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