Many photographers have used their skills in the service of scientific investigation. Dr. Harold Edgerton, known as “Doc” to his electrical engineering students at MIT and as “Papa Flash” to the photography community, used his scientific skills to further the art of photography, as well as science. In 1931 he invented the electronic flash while working on his Doctoral dissertation on synchronous motors. Using a battery to discharge a recurring high-voltage current into a gas filled tube, he produced intense and instant flashes of light that exposed the film and recorded images which the unaided eye could not see. In this photograph, the “speedlight” captured a bullet in the split second that it pierced an apple.
As remarkable as the photograph is for revealing scientific information about the physics of high-speed ballistics, it is equally aesthetically stunning. The beautiful deep blue background enhances the red and yellow of the apple. The primary colors and spikes of shredded apple skin reverberate with energy, enlivening the violent explosion of fruit from each side of the apple. The contradiction of energy and speed, frozen in time, creates dual feelings of strangeness and excitement in this look at hidden reality.