Stallings EntropySunday, June 08, 2008
Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
The second law of thermodynamics (the entropy law or law of entropy) was formulated in the middle of the last century by Clausius and Thomson following Carnot's earlier observation that, like the fall or flow of a stream that turns a mill wheel, it is the "fall" or flow of heat from higher to lower temperatures that motivates a steam engine. The key insight was that the world is inherently active, and that whenever an energy distribution is out of equilibrium a potential or thermodynamic "force" (the gradient of a potential) exists that the world acts spontaneously to dissipate or minimize. All real-world change or dynamics is seen to follow, or be motivated, by this law.
My friend Ian McGuffie often talks about entropy and how everything dissipates, slows down and comes to a grinding halt. Perhaps he is right on all of it but most recently in the science section of the NY Times in an article called Dark, Perhaps Forever I learn that at the outer reaches of our universe everything is expanding at an ever increasing rate. There seems to be no chance that entropy is involved.
Entropy affects us all, particularly when we factor age and how our body forces us to slow down. Then there is laziness and the ease of sitting down at a computer and how much for fun it is than to jog around the block 37 times. My friend Les Wiseman used to advise me, " Drink, and when in doubt do so heavily." In youth quantity is quality. In our declining age we (or at least this blogger) believe quality is doing something well in moderation. By now some of you must be wondering (perhaps its your youth!), "Get on with it and show us more of Lauri Stallings. What does entropy have to do with her?"
Those who have no idea of digital cameras can skip this paragraph. A digital camera gives you the choice of shooting RAW or jpgs. Both are formats for storing and reproducing digital captures. A negative or slide is exposed to light. A latent image is then embedded and has to be process or developed to see it. With digital cameras the operation of light falling on the sensor (not film) is called digital capture. Very fancy DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras) give their owners not only the choice of shooting RAW or in the much smaller digital file called the jpg but also in modes such as infrared, b+w, etc. Cautious photographers tend to shoot with huge files called RAW. Everything the camera does is recorded and stored in these files. In some cases even the exact spot on earth using GPS (global positioning systems by satellite use). If the photographer makes exposure mistakes RAW files allow more leeway for correction than the more limited jpg. Few photographers will commit themselves to shooting in a dedicated b+w mode. Suppose the client wants the images in colour? What then? So they cover all the bases and shoot RAW. Then they spend long hours sifting, correcting, editing.
My solution in the stone age of film was to shoot with everything I had. And here comes the connection with Lauri Stallings.
I so loved shooting Stallings that I persuaded to explore the theme of the ballerina that is not a swan but a real woman. Dancing was supposed to be effortless and ethereal. We were out to show that there was lots of eros, too.
With my Mamiya RB-67 which shoots film in the 6x7cm format I had the option of using several film backs. This meant that I loaded one back with Ektachrome transparency, one with Kodacolour negative film and the third with b+w negative film. If this was not enough I also shot with a Nikon FM-2 loaded with Kodak b+w infrared film which alas, has now been discontinued.
Every picture I took of Stallings I have reproduced in all four methods. Perhaps when she looked at my camera with Ektachrome, her expression was better than with the colour negative. It did not matter because Stallings was very good at keeping her expressions, or perhaps in remembering them and being able to repeat them.
For a show, so many years ago at Ian McGuffie's Exposure Gallery I dedicated my entries to Stallings. The transparencies were converted to digital files and then some low resolution Canon Fiery transparencies (they had a curious varnish-like finish) were generated by my friend Grant Simmons at DISC. These I mounted on silver card. In the gallery, with overhead lighting, they shimmered like colour Daguerreotypes.
The colour negatives I had converted to a see-through Kodak material called Duratrans and I also mounted these on silver card. They shimmered, too and the detail was astounding. The Canon Fieries were more interesting.
The first image here is an example of a Canon Fiery. It does not shimmer because I could only reproduce it by laying it on my scanner. The second one, also in colour, is Grant's original jpg file (on a floppy!) that he used to make the four different images of Stallings acting out a not quite so pristine and innocent ballerina.
The images in yesterday's blog are each an example of b+w. The one of Stallings jumping (She is not! She was sitting on a stool) I used infrared film. The other is the 6x7 format b+w. The b+w contact sheet shows some pictures (one the left side of the contact sheet, more tomorrow) of a curious choreographed performance that Stallings did for my camera. It was her version of the ballerina exploring and inner self I had no idea of. Since then I have found out that the extremely original Stallings is in high demand in the US as a choreographer. Who would have known that the pristine ballerina in the long white dress, backstage at the Queen Elizabeth was the same woman?
Recently I told Rebecca that we did not have to leave so early to go to a performance of Peter Bingham and Emily Molnar at EDAM. I told her that EDAM is very small and every seat is a good one. Rebecca repeated what she has often heard from me, "I want to go early because I want to sit on the front row and listen to the dancers breathe." It was from Stallings that I first caught a glimpse of this humanity. I have been enthralled since, even if entropy has made me slow down, somewhat. Perhaps what I need is another (could that be possible?) Lauri Stallings to push me to the edges of my known universe where entropy has no domain and excitement is everything speeded up.