The Man Who Made Time Stand Still
The Photographs of Harold Edgerton
OCTOBER 16, 2016-APRIL 9, 2017
The iconic photographs of American artist and engineer Harold “Doc” Edgerton (1903-1990) offer a view of the undetectable. Edgerton’s photographic experiments with strobe lights at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1930s led to the invention of a new flash device that captured stillness in motion, transforming moments that occur in the blink of an eye into events worth seeing. After the Second World War, the photographer that National Geographic magazine called “the man who made time stand still” turned his camera and strobe light to recording liquid droplet formation, the impact of a bullet on a variety of objects, and the corporeal movements of animals and athletes.
Alongside the imagery of consumer culture and scientific wonder, popularized in the twentieth century, Edgerton’s photographs of arrested motion are energetic and immediately relatable. While entertaining, they also belong next to works by artists like Eadweard Muybridge, Berenice Abbott, and László Moholy-Nagy, photographic innovators whose creative practices have bridged art and science.
In 2013 the WAG acquired 60 Edgerton prints from the MIT Archives. This exhibition is a selection of 31 photographs that testify to Edgerton’s skill, ingenuity, and the power of images to challenge what and how we see.