magic moments

magic refers to an object that does something special
magical gives something an air of enchantment and mystery.

Catherine’s word for today made me think again, on the magic that is photography. When I googled it, I found articles talking about the magic of capturing a moment in time forever, or the impression an image creates on the viewers. Perhaps it is a sign of the digital age that with the ease of point and shoot we are losing touch with the magic of the camera in terms of what it does, as well as with the magical way our photo impressions are created. And so for my own benefit, I’m collating the information here.

Camera means ‘dark room’ and the camera obscura made it possible for renaissance artists to trace a projected image thus:
”  A brightly lit scene or object was placed opposite a hole cut into the side of a darkened container. Rays of light reflected from it, passed through the hole, converging into an upside-down image, “projected” onto the surface inside the container. ”
When in 1800 one such image was projected onto silver nitrate paper by Wedgwood, the first photo came to life…but rapidly faded *

After several tried & tested chemical methodologies for fixing the photo, Talbot, in 1841, developed the light sensitive paper negative, exposed for only a minute or two, to produce a “latent” image which could then be chemically “developed out” and made visible. 
This the “calotype” (Greek kalos = beautiful & tupos = impression) was the prototype for the negative-positive printing process of analogue photographic reproduction right up until the digital revolution.*

I press the button and think nothing of it but the camera itself is a piece of mechanical magic.
Light reflected off the subject enters the camera through the lens aperture. It then reaches a mirror temporarily tilted at 45 degrees which reflects the light at 90 degrees for previewing the shot.
Once the shutter release button is pressed the mirror moves out of line and the shutter covering the film or the camera sensor opens up allowing light to form the photographic impression
. **

Photography” means “drawing with light” (phōtós/light & graphê/drawing or write). The subject is almost the afterthought.
Too often I forget this and wonder why my compositions are flat – here the tide has drawn lines in the mud of the river Deben and the mud acts like a mirrored surface

The foul society rushed like a single Narcissus to contemplate its trivial image on the metal [plate]” remarked Baudelaire and I can only reiterate these sentiments when ‘selfie’ narcissism is fast becoming a predominant focus of cameras. Surely the magic lies elsewhere!

* the birth of photography
** How does the camera work

Joining Catherine’s 2020/366 challenge with her word Magic ~ where she invites us to write, photograph or turn it into art

9 thoughts on “magic moments

  1. Thank you, Laura. I enjoyed the photos you included in this narrative. The first image spoke to me of the magic within childhood…the second mystery of light.

    1. thank you Brenda – that 1st image also shows the magic of digital manipulation and greying out the immaterial. Light, light, light – there is nothing quite like it for creating photos – I must make this more of a mantra

  2. You saw ‘magic’ and I heard it, thank you for joining in the prompt. As both photographer and poet, you may enjoy playing with tomorrow’s prompt ‘Colour’

  3. Dear Laura, I must tell you a short story of the camera obscura. I was a burner (cutting steel with a torch) in a ship yard and at one point I was asked to cut a window in a vacant steel room. Once I had made the first hole in the wall, I turned around for something and saw the outside image, upside down on the opposite wall and realized that I was inside a camera obscura. As a photographer, the experience was imbedded in my mind, it was, for me an awesome experience.
    Thanks for sharing all the above.

    1. interesting question Jude and glad you asked- I shot it in colour and overlaid a monochrome version which I painstakingly removed to highlight the subject – that is the magic of Photoshop!

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