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To Photograph Darkness
  • To Photograph Darkness

To Photograph Darkness


The history and development of underground and flash photography, by Chris Howes

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To Photograph Darkness

From the dustjacket

To Photograph Darkness traces the history of underground photography, and the techniques used, from the first pictures taken in the catacombs beneath Paris to the pyramids of Egypt, from American caves to Cornish tin mines, and underground locations throughout the world.

The opening chapters are concerned with the earliest experiments to record images without the aid of the sun in the 1860s. Innovative photographers have since used limelight, Bengal fire, arc lights, and even magnesium mixed with gunpowder to make the first crude flashpowder as well as specially designed electronic flashguns and powder burners giving a searing 2m flame. The story is continued to underwater and cine photography and the techniques used in cave photography today.

To Photograph Darkness is a fascinating and highly readable account of the use of artificial light and the difficulties the first underground photographers had to overcome - explosions, the boredom of models who would wander away half-way through a long exposure, falling rocks, fumes and dampness, and the superstitions and disbelief with which their results were often confronted. Ten years in the writing, it is the only book of its kind and is based on primary sources of information throughout. The extensive use of quotations retains the immediacy of the challenge that both amateur and professional cameramen had to overcome.

The book is illustrated with 160 engravings, line drawings and photographs, many of which have never been published before. If your interest is the underground world of caves and mines, or the development of artificial light and photographic history, To Photograph Darkness contains something of relevance and interest for you. Fully referenced and indexed, it can also be used to identify and track down rare photographs and photographers worldwide. This volume is a major research resource and the authoritative book on the subject.

For the companion title: Images Below

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Product Details

Data sheet

Chris Howes
17.5cm x 25.5cm
New or used:
Book: new
160 b&w illustrations
Publication date:
Southern Illinois University Press also published this title in the USA, under the SUI imprint with an ISBN of 0-8093-1622-6; the book is identical, other than that the dedication was omitted

To Photograph Darkness

List of Illustrations

1    Let There Be Light
2    Magnesium: the Start of an Era
3    Mammoth Cave
4    Subterranean Light
5    Explosive Powders
6    Beneath the Deserts of France
7    Hand-hewn Rock
8    The Gentlemen Cavers
9    Lighting the Bat Cave
10  Moving Pictures
11  Post-war Underground

1    A Chronology of Important Dates
2    Glossary
3    Dating Cave Photographs
4    Chemical Names
5    Units of Measurement
6    Notes & References

Picture Credits

From the dustjacket:

Chris Howes has been involved with underground photography since 1968, when he first photographed a cave during a school field course. Since then he has developed his own techniques for recording the unique world to be found below ground, and in 1981 was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society for his cave photography.

He has written widely on the subject in the photographic press, and won awards in competitions both in Britain and abroad. In 1987 he was expedition photographer for the prestigious Andros Project to explore the flooded Blue Hole caves of the Bahamas. Later that year his book Cave Photography, a practical guide to taking underground pictures, was published. In 1988 he became editor of the caver's magazine, Descent.

In addition, the last decade has been filled with researching To Photograph Darkness, a fascinating quest which has taken him across the world in search of photographs and primary sources of information until the subject has become a way of life. He currently lives in Cardiff, where he works as a biology teacher and freelance photographer.

Awards for To Photograph Darkness

Peter M. Hauer Award for significant speleological history research, 1993

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