Monday, June 28, 2010

The Refracted Light

SEE A NEW blog on photography: The Refracted Light.
The name ‘Refracted Light’ refers to the process where waves, when hitting a boundary at an angle, will change velocity, and so will also change direction.  This principle is what makes optics and cameras possible: light waves, when hitting the glass of a lens at an angle, will be bent.  Lenses are precisely constructed to focus these light waves at a point, where an image can be captured. This name perhaps is evocative of photography.

But the name also comes from the poem Mythopoeia, by J.R.R Tolkien, who is better known for his epic novel of high fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. Quoting the poem:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Tolkien wrote this in defense of creative myth-making, rebutting his friend “who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’”. Tolkien's imagery can also apply to photography: a thousand photographers can each photograph the same scene with the same camera, yet a thousand different images result. Photography may be our most objective art form, but the single white light of Truth gets refracted through each person, producing many hues.

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