Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Light Box

I was pleased to be involved in a small way recently with another project originating in the University’s School of English.  Light Box is an artistic collaboration for UNESCO's International Year of Light between poet Robert Crawford (who teaches in the School of English) and photographer Norman McBeath, many of whose photographs are in the collections of the National Portrait Galleries in London and Edinburgh.   Produced as a result of Crawford’s and McBeath’s meetings with physicists who work in optoelectronics, the “light box” itself is a handsome, buckram-bound artist’s box containing 37 leaves on which new haiku are juxtaposed with specially taken photographs.  The relation between the poems and pictures is often teasingly oblique.  Neither simply illustrates the other, but instead they resonate together, each enhancing the other.  As a whole, they celebrate light in all its aspects, solar, sacred, scientific, nourishing and poetic.
Click image to view the digital version of Light Box

My contribution has been the creation of this digital version of the box’s contents on Islandora’s useful turn-the-page reader, and I was glad to see it being linked to from open scotland mag.com, the newsletter of the innovation community in Scotland. 
One of the physicists featured in Light Box is St Andrews’ John W. Allen, who led a team that invented the world’s first practicable LEDs in 1961.  Though his early scientific papers are now archived in the Science Museum in London, John Allen’s story is not well known.  When Crawford and McBeath met him he showed them some of his early LEDs, which were then called “crystal lamps.”  McBeath’s remarkable portrait photograph of him and Crawford’s accompanying haiku together pay tribute to this modest, tenacious inventor who, more than fifty years after his innovative work on LEDs, is still developing new ways of working with light.

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