This morning, I watched the early light come through the cut glass prisms of our front door and splash against the wall in a spectrum of colors. It reminded me of one of my first memories as a kid.
I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember studying a collection of intense rays of light streaming through the window and hitting the hardwood floor in our living room. I remember sticking my hand in the beams, and playing with the them to see if I could affect the light flow. I remember swinging my arm through the beams as quickly as I could to break up the beams or to bend them. I don’t think an alien visitation could have been more captivating.
Most photographers have a love of light, and chase it to find the best natural lighting situations, or control it in the studio. In my wet plate collodion photographic work, there’s a black magic element to controlling the light. Over the years, I’ve often wondered how much an early fascination with light had in my love of photography. Was it there all along, and the light just presented an opportunity to play?
Did the energy of charged photons spark a desire to become an electrical engineer? Instead of the light, what if I had become fascinated by the wood grain on the floor at the end of the beam? Would I be a wood worker now instead of an artist and engineer?
Physics tells us that under certain conditions light behaves like a wave. In other conditions, it behaves like a particle. My favorite Nikon advertisement takes this concept a step further by saying, “sometimes light behaves like a spoiled tempestuous child.” Maybe that aspect of light holds the greatest fascination for me. Instead of waves of light or a collection of charged particles, maybe I saw myself… a spoiled tempestuous child who soon began begging for his first camera.