HAROLD EDGERTON on view at Jane Corkin Gallery (179 John) until June 30. 416-979-1980. Rating: NNNNN
anyone who cares about photography must see Jane Corkin's show of vintage prints by Harold Edgerton.
By inventing the stroboscope in 1931 and then spending the rest of his life (he died in 1990) scientifically testing the potential of strobe lighting, this electrical engineer and MIT prof literally revolutionized the photographic medium.
Stobes are the single most common form of flash lighting used by professional photographers today. The fact that Edgerton's other patents include early underwater cameras (he worked extensively with Jacques Cousteau) seems almost trivial by comparison. Strobe lighting is so important that it's exceptional when a photographer chooses to use some other type of artificial light source.
Edgerton's signed and dated prints would be of enormous art historical interest even if they lacked aesthetic appeal. But while he maintained that he was a scientist rather than an artist, his famous multi-flash photos showing the nautilus form of Densmore Shute or Bobby Jones's golf swing or the single flash images of a milk drop coronet or a bullet passing through an apple reveal that he understood Modernism as clearly as he did his scientific discipline.