Ephemeral Photographs Staged With Artful Inventions

[Gordon Kirkwood’s] focus as a photographer is in capturing ephemeral phenomena, that is, things that are exhilarating to see but also fleeting. In the pursuit of documenting such blips of beauty found in the natural word, he has taken on engineering the circumstance through which they occur by means of technology.

One of the amazing mechanical creations he’s constructed to aid in his photography is a large computer controlled, bubble blower. A few stepper motors work to dilate three segments of soap-soaked rope engaged at 120 degree angles to create a triangular aperture. When the aperture closes, the segments overlap slightly, covering themselves with a consistent coating of suds. When the segments stretch apart, a fan blows a current of air towards the center, pushing the sheath of fluid into ginormous glimmering orbs which he uses as the focal point in some of his photographs.


More currently, [Gordon] has been developing a body of work that involves zapping botanical subject matter with a quarter-million volts from a portable arc producing device he’s created and capturing the reaction with an ultra low-tech camera (the kind with the bellow and sheet you hide under while exposing the film). Using a method all his own, the shots recorded on large format film are claimed to turn out with even more clarity than any current digital camera in use today. [Gordon] has launched a crowd funding campaign to support a pilgrimage to the majestic island of Hawaii, where he’ll use his lightning producing apparatus on ten different specimens of tropical plant life so that he can record the outcome with his tried and proven technique. (see below an artsy shot of his lightning summoner)


Sometimes Kickstarter isn’t so much about commercialism as it is starting a dialogue with the world and beginning a personal adventure. May the journey lead to new inventions and larger, more ambitious projects! Oh yeah- the bubble blowing machine is a must-see in action. Wicked cool:


11 thoughts on “Ephemeral Photographs Staged With Artful Inventions

  1. Thanks for writing about me and my project, Sarah!

    The kickstarter for “Electrified Flowers of Hawaii” is live until Dec 16 (I’m only running it 10 days):http://kck.st/1rYaL7s

    Neon22, allow me to explain how this is kindred to, but different and better in three definite ways, than kirlian photography.

    Kirlian photographs are always of small items, and always fuzzy, especially when the subject has any significant texture or non-flatness. These limitations are consequences of the technique of making contact prints, where a light-producing subject (ie. arcing leaf) is held flat against film. Only when they are perfectly in contact will fine detail register; If the subject isn’t perfectly flat and perfectly in contact with the leaf, the light spreads out on its way to reaching the film, resulting in blurry images. Also, when you’re making a contact print, you can’t photograph anything that’s not smaller than the film. Or even smaller if it is desired to record the expanding arcs around the leaf.

    As a result, no kirlian technique yet demonstrated by anyone else has produced images of comparable or larger sized subjects, with this level of incredible fine detail – as evident from photos seen in my kickstarter video and above here.

    Then there’s the third distinction, which is the fact that I’m using an incredibly low impedance power source at a quarter million volts. My rise times are vastly shorter, my attained voltages vastly higher, and the amount of charge I can deliver significantly greater. All these factors contribute towards these photographs being *the* most detailed ones yet made, of the largest subjects, and with some incredibly well defined arcs, of any high voltage photography technique, especially “kirlian”.

    But it does involve photographs of electric arcs from roughly planar subjects, so in that sense it is kindred to kirlian photography. It’s just that Semyon Kirlian never saw anything as good as this. Check out the kickstarter for more images and further explanation of my technique’s distinctions and merits. Would you like to own one of the first runs of prints of this new technique?

    Cheers, Gordon

    1. Wonderful work Gordon.
      As a former darkroom dweller and large format masochist, I doff my cap to your technical and artistic endeavor. Highly technical art is damned hard to pull off and you’ve done so quite well. Impressive.


  2. Lol, the BS kickstarters are now the mainstay of kickstarter then eh.

    I’d rather go to the yard and burn some money, maybe I’ll take pictures of it so I can get it funded on kickstarter…

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