Saturday, October 16, 2010

light shining

I've been writing a different version of my lecture on flash photography and lightning today - one which tries to tackle it from a transatlantic perspective, which proves to be bizarrely hard - since flash photography, and its language, was very transhemispheric - photographers didn't seem all that much to be in competition with one another, as they were when it came to late C19th art photography, say, or even over technical excellence at the time of the 1851 Great Exhibition (the jury, in giving the photography prizes to the Americans, remarked, sniffily, that it was small wonder that the quality was so good - the atmosphere was so much less polluted over there).  

But I've also been reading Jane Brox's Brilliant.   The Evolution of Artificial Light, and learning, among other things, about the harnessing of electricity to make light (and yes, I remember when I was three, living briefly at Knorren Lodge, in Cumberland, which still had oil lamps.   Online, I find I could buy its derelict outbuildings and turn them into holiday cottages for a mere 395,000 pounds - more than I'm asking for this house! and even though they may be Grade II listed buildings, just look at them now!   I remember when they had hens in them ...).   I am so glad that the brilliant, weird C19th scientist couldn't properly explain electricity, even though he was fascinated with it from an early age ...

     Now, I must tell you of a strange experience which bore fruit in my later life.   We had a cold [snap] drier than ever observed before.   People walking in the snow left a luminous trail.   [As I stroked the cat] Macak's back, [it became] a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks.   My father remarked, this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see on the trees in a storm.   My mother seemed alarmed.   Stop playing with the cat, she said, he might start a fire.   I was thinking abstractly.   Is nature a cat?   If so, who strokes its back?   It can only be God, I concluded ...

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