In 1704 the English philosopher, physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton published for the first time Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. The book analyses the fundamental nature of light, as well as the behaviour of colour mixtures by means of the refraction of light with prisms, lenses, spectral lights or pigment powders. In this book, Newton sets forth in full his experiments, first reported to the Royal Society of London in 1672, on dispersion or the separation of light into a spectrum of its component colours.
With the same spirit of investigation and research, we have started Opticks which is neither a series, nor a specific and delimited portion of work. It is meant to be our ongoing learning project using photography as medium. It will help us to better understand Nature, to reveal the invisible, to understand reality from a different point of view and to see familiar forms in a non-figurative way harnessing the feelings of our day-to-day encounters.
In Opticks, we follow our initial approach of using photography to investigate the ‘structure of reality’, ‘the why of things’. As Berenice Abbott once stated: to use photography as “the friendly interpreter of science”. The difference with our previous series is that in this case we investigate the components of Nature which are inaccessible and unviewable, except by means of experiments which render them visible.
We do believe that photography is the perfect tool to document all this experimentation. In our book The First Photobook was Blue we claim that: [In photography] we found the perfect philosophical tool to learn more about the universe as a logical and architectural conception.
In the introduction to the book Abstract Pictures on Film Franz Roh explains: “straightforward reproduction is still the nucleus of photography, but radiating from that nucleus,… are a number of facets which cannot be encompassed by drawing, etching, lithography or similar manual processes. The peculiar nuances of light and shade, with their gradations of transparency, express something other than manual painting or graphic art can convey.”
In this project we use the photographic medium as an expressive tool to understand concepts and ideas that transcend representation. Thus, photography goes beyond its being a tool to capture and recollect events. Quoting Franz Roh: “…In our view, an imaginary world seems no less important than the mere portrayal of the external world.”
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean”
― Isaac Newton