PHE 2010: Harold Edgerton

The excellent annual photography festival, PhotoEspaña, opened last week in venues across Spain and Portugal. CR visited to see what was on show this year…

Shooting The Apple, 1964

The excellent annual photography festival, PhotoEspaña, opened last week in venues across Spain and Portugal. CR visited to see what was on show this year…


The festival is now in its 13th year, and is bearing up well despite the global recession. This year it is themed loosely on concepts surrounding ‘time’ and the official selection boasts exhibitions from Juergen Teller, Isabel Muñoz, Collier Schorr, and Roman Signer. There are also brilliant retrospectives of the work of László Moholy-Nagy, Helen Levitt, and Harold Edgerton. A full review of the festival will appear in the August issue of CR, but I’m going to highlight a selection of the exhibitions on the blog this week, beginning with the afore-mentioned Edgerton.

Cycloid Demonstration (Bicycle Wheel & Reflector), 1987

The retrospective of Edgerton’s work, titled The Anatomy of Movement, is on show at the Fundación BBVA in Madrid. It brings together 95 photographs as well as notebooks and working materials by Edgerton, who was a US engineer and a pioneer of ultra high-speed photography. His images revealed a world slowed down.

Gussie Moran, 1949

Edgerton famously photographed a milk drop as it landed to form a coronet in a puddle, and he also experimented extensively with the effects of bullets (see top), and the movements of athletes, including tennis player Gussie Moran, above. Like Eadweard Muybridge (who will receive a major retrospective at Tate Britain from September), Edgerton created his own technology to capture his images, inventing the stroboscopic flash, a device that used repeating bursts of light to photograph moving objects in fractions of a second.

Hammer breaking a lightbulb, 1933, all images: courtesy Palm Press Inc, © Harold & Esther Edgerton Foundation, 2010

According to the exhibition’s curator, Sérgio Mah, Edgerton used photography for purely scientific purposes, although many of his images are now also being viewed in an art context. Included in the exhibition at Fundación BBVA is a charming (and Oscar-winning) documentary about Edgerton from 1940, titled Quicker Than A Wink, which reveals some of his experiments on film. These include a slow-mo version of a tooth being drilled – not for the faint-hearted. I was hoping to find the film on YouTube but have been unsuccessful, so have included a film of a hummingbird by Edgerton below instead.

The exhibition will be on until July 25. For more info on PhotoEspaña, visit


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