I’ve recently discussed on the blog the close relationship between photography and poetry. The process of making and putting together pictures is often linked to the lyrical sensibility. But photography is as much a child of science as poetry. I see this as a spectrum. I’ve even toyed around with charting different photographers on this spectrum:
But it is hard to pinpoint the location of certain photographers. A real brainteaser is the work of David Goldes. Goldes has an M.A. in Molecular Genetics from Harvard. His work is rooted in scientific investigation. But David is also a poetry enthusiast and his sensual prints are hardly straightforward experimental documents. It is as though his work oscillates between both extremes through his own brew of creative quantum logic.
This morning I emailed David to ask him about one of his snow pictures. Knowing about my interest in Wilson Bentley, David emailed me the following image:
Rain on Flour, David Goldes
David explained the making of the picture:
Rain on Flour is something I made a while ago and the idea behind it is this: I put a sifted tray of flour out in the rain for a few minutes and could see on the flour surface that the rain drops were different sizes. Who knew? After I made this picture I read elsewhere that Bentley had done the same thing but had gone several steps further. He strained out the unaltered flour and was left with little glue balls made by each rain drop and then he sorted the balls to see how many of each size were made. So the flour tray became a method to measure size distribution of droplets in what we crudely call “the rain”.
It would appear that David is a scientific photographer. Or is he? Have a look at these two images:
The picture on the left, by Goldes, is titled, Growing Sugar Crystals (2002). The picture on the right, by Josef Sudek (the ‘Poet of Prague’), is titled Simple Still Life (1954). Only the title differentiates the scientist from the poet.
Now take a look at the image I originally requested from David:
Walk the Dog, David Goldes
Why did Goldes take this picture? I imagine his original interest was snow crystals (most of his pictures make some reference to water). But if I were to chart this picture it would be deep on the poetic side of the spectrum. In fact it resembles this snow picture by Josef Sudek:
The Window of my Studio, Josef Sudek, 1948
Is it poetry or is it science? Like so much of my blather on this blog, it really doesn’t matter. What is curious is how much I love these two pictures. They really are two of my favorites. But it gets weirder. If I were to make a list of my top ten all-time favorite photographs, I would likely include these two:
Gregrory Watching the Snow Fall, Kyoto, Feb 21st 1983, David Hockney
Apres Ski in der Schweiz, Ed van der Elsken
Snow, windows, and a touch of erotic longing – This seems to be the formula. It makes me want to do a scientific experiment. If someone were to take a picture with these three elements, what are the chances I’d like it?
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Disclaimer for regular blog readers: I’m not suggesting that ‘The Scientist of Minneapolis’ should be ‘the sentence’ for David Goldes. I used it because it sort of works to the tune of My Favorite Things:
Raindrops on flour and windows of fog
The scientist of Minneapolis & the poet of Prague
These are a few of my favorite things.