High-speed photography

Caught in an instant: three balloons, just after they have been pierced by .22 calibre bullet, travelling at a speed of 1,600ft per second. The 1959 image is the work of Dr Harold Eugene Edgerton, or the Doc, who revolutionised photography with a string of inventions. Born in Fermont, Nebraska in 1903, as a boy he learnt about photography from his uncle, and set up a darkroom in his parents' kitchen. After graduating, he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he studied the whirling rotors of an engine with a stroboscope. By matching the frequency of the strobe light's flashing to the speed of the engine, the rotors appeared to be stationary, a discovery crucial to high-speed photography. During the rest of his long career his cameras captured everything from Pacific H-bomb tests to the underwater investigations of Jacques Cousteau. He overreached himself only once, in 1976, when he went on an expedition co-sponsored by The New York Times, to find the Loch Ness monster. He died in 1990, at MIT. n

'Seeing the Unseen', Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London SW3, 9 July to 28 August (0171-352 3649)