I’m fascinated with ephemeral phenomena, and the most recent manifestation of this has led me to invent some elaborate technical apparatus to make photographs of huge bubbles doing interesting things. Here are two videos of it working for the first time- the first with a series of close-up views of different components, the second as a wide-view of the whole system in operation.
Giant bubbles are uniquely able to engage and delight people of all types. Who can resist feeling wonder and awe at giant, floating, opalescent, undulating transparent orbs and the salience they give to normally invisible 3-dimensional flows? After my first experience blowing bubbles from a moving bicycle (the wind past the bicycle removes any requirement to blow or move the wand, you just adjust your speed to get the right wind), I was hooked.
I’ve organized a number of bubble blowing events, especially the “Bubbles on Bikes Jamboree Ride” for Bike Pittsburgh’s Bikefest and the first ever “Giant Bubbles Flash Mob”. For the latter, I manufactured 45 giant bubble wands, and about 25 gallons of giant bubble juice, and coordinated a synchronized release of ridiculously many insanely huge giant bubbles. Beyond the pre-arranged 45 bubble blowers, we had the fully invested attention and participation of somewhere between 300 and 500 people for several solid hours. All for about two days prep and maybe $200 in materials (including the pizza for the wand-making party). See the nicely polished video made by Ben Saks of Float Pictures here, or the great single-take cellphone video clip from Jason Kirin here.
For some things I’d like to do, I required a highly repeatable way of producing bubbles, and controlling aspects like timing and size and speed and direction. I also love a good engineering challenge, and so I invented a cable iris aperture mechanism and set out to use it to make a uniquely flexible and useful bubble machine. A CNC bubble machine.
There’s a few very sophisticated things I’d like to do with this which I’ll write about later, but for the first project I’m looking forward to making playful occupational portraits of some friends, mentors, and elders I feel lucky to know and learn from. I’m fortunate to have a few such in my life, in their sixties, seventies and eighties, and who in addition to great technical accomplishments, embody wonderful spirits of playfulness and creativity in their golden years that it’d be my pleasure to honor and record with such portraits.