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meditations

In 1727 Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered photosensitive qualities of silver nitrate, which was one of the most important steps leading to the invention of photography a hundred years later. Photosensitivity had of course been known earlier.

This is how Stefan Themerson wrote about it in The Urge to Create Visions (1983):

When the apple was still green, a little leaf got stuck to its surface. The sun shone, the apple reddened, but not under the little leaf. And when Eve took the apple, which was pleasant to the eyes, she flicked of the little leaf, but she didn’t notice that a beautiful pale shape of the little leaf was created there, on the peal of the apple. Neither did the serpent notice it. No did Adam. Nor the author of Genesis (otherwise he would have mentioned it, and he didn’t).

Not only do apples change their colour when exposed to light, the colour of human skin changes as well.

Sometimes skin changes colour because of exposure to sunlight, sometimes because of exposure to light from an UV lamp.

When I look at photos from Illustrated People, I can’t stop thinking, that most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays. I am afraid that there will be a follow-up.

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Abraham Lincoln

Alexander Gardner/ Sanna Dullaway, Abraham Lincoln, 1865/ 2012

Whenever someone famous dies, the Polish media illustrate the news with a black and white picture. I’d like it to be the result of the cultural connectedness of the two colours to death, but it is more likely only a result of identifying black and white photographs with the past tense. In Roland Topor’s La Princesse Angine the protagonists do not die, they only move from the present to the past tense. In the media the famous do not die either, but merely pass from colour to black and white. Someone in a black and white picture is someone form the past. That is why so many people find the colour photographs from the Second World War so eerie.

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