This week we look at the theory and chemistry of photography.

Episode 39 | September 5, 2008

Episode 39: Photography by Distillations Podcast

In the eleventh century the first camera obscura was invented, helping artists draw. It would be another eight centuries before people figured out how to capture images directly onto film. This week we focus on photography. We start with a look at how selenium is important to black and white photography and photocopiers. Next, CHF’s David Caruso talks about objective versus subjective photography—and if objective photography can even exist. Finally, producer Emily Wilson takes us on a preview of the exhibit Brought to Light, a show about modern science and photography that will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art beginning on October 11, 2008. Element of the Week: Selenium.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
01:10 Element of the Week: Selenium
03:13 Commentary: Objectivity vs. Subjectivity
06:04 Science and Photography at SFMOMA
10:50 Quote: Terrence Donovan
11:15 Closing Credits

Resources and References

For more information about scientific photography, see the Winter 2006/7 issue of Chemical Heritage.

Also be sure to check out the Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible exhibit at SFMOMA.


Special thanks go to David Caruso for researching the show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network. Additional music is “Hangin’ Ten on the Shinkansen,” by Vincent Van Go Go, “Ain’t in the picture,” by Uninvited Dinner Guests, and “Knock Knock Knock,” by Podcast Troubadour.

This week’s photos courtesy of the SFMOMA Brought to Light exhibit. From top to bottom: Henri van Heurck, X-ray of a hand with a ring, 1896; Printing-out paper print; 6 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (17.2 x 11.5 cm); Courtesy Galerie GÉRARD-LÉVY, Paris. Edward L. Allen and Frank Rowell, The moon, made at the Observatório Nacional, Cordoba, Spain, 1876; Carbon print; 20 1/2 x 16 1/4 in. (52.1 x 41.3 cm); Stephen White Collection II, Los Angeles. Eadweard Muybridge, Bouquet with rider, ca. 1887; Collotype.