Seeing The Unseen: Photographs by Harold E. Edgerton

Oct 9-Nov 28, 2004 Seeing the Unseen | Photographs by Harold E. Edgerton

Harold Edgerton as born in Fremont, Nebraska, in 1903, where his father was principal of the high school and coach of the football team. A few years after his birth, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where his father worked as a reporter for the Washington Times and studied law.

Washington, however, could not compete with the attractions of Nebraska. The family moved back – residing in Lincoln, on the Winnebago Indian Reservation, and finally in Aurora. At fourteen Edgerton bought his first camera, a postcard folding model, from a mail-order catalog.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska, Edgerton spent a year with General Electric in Schenectady, New York. He then enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he won both a master's degree and a doctorate in electrical engineering. It was Edgerton's work in electrical measurements at MIT that first led him to investigate the stroboscope and the possibility of using it for photography.

Edgerton as a photographer was first of all a scientist and an electrical engineer who investigated, measured, and sought new facts about natural phenomena. His photographic genius, which he always downplayed, has captured bullets in flight and athletes in motion; has stopped the flutter of a hummingbird's wings; captured the detonation of atomic bombs at a hundred millionth of a second; and produced the renowned coronet picture of a drop of milk as it splattered into a saucer. His photographs, as scientific records, bestow on us comprehension and increase our awareness. They reveal new forms, subtle relationships of time and space, and the essence of motion. He created a universal visual scientific language for all to appreciate – a unique image of that time world beyond the threshold of our eyes.