…There needs to be a friendly interpreter between science and the layman. I believe that photography can be this spokesman, as no other form of expression can be; for photography, the art of our time, the mechanical scientific medium which matches the pace and character of our era, is attuned to the function. There is an essential unity between photography, science’s child, and science, the parent.
— Berenice Abbott, Photography and Science, 1939
Photography itself was born out of a passionate engagement between art and science. The medium’s pioneers, Josef Nicéphore Niépce, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot, were inventors, scientists and mathematicians. The results of their intellectual endeavors dramatically affected art and forged a reciprocal relationship between art and science that has continued to this day.
After the invention of photography and its announcement to the world in 1839, photography became a favored tool for scientific investigation while simultaneously spawning a new art form. The nineteenth century was a heyday for scientific amateurs, whose collective curiosity and enthusiasm for experimentation yielded significant contributions to geology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and the arts. Since then, photographic and scientific technologies have advanced rapidly in continuing symbiosis.
This exhibition of 36 photographs offers a rich and extensive view of the scientific studies done by three of photography’s greats: Eadweard Muybridge, Berenice Abbott and Harold Edgerton. Each of these artists invented devices to study and represent aspects of light and motion scientifically and photographically. Not only do their works clearly and elegantly reveal scientific phenomena, but in them their individualized artistic sensibility is also evident. These photographs are therefore not merely scientific studies, but art unto themselves