Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

In 1982, at his minimalist “office”, Diana Walker captured Jobs, who remembered, “This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.”

Steve Jobs, the heir to P.T. Barnum and Henry Ford, is dead, aged 56.

While many decry him for putting form over function, Steven Paul Jobs came closer than any other entrepreneur in modern history in understanding the power of ease and aesthetics. While it was an uninspiring beige box, his first Apple Macintosh had proportionally spaced fonts. The latest MacBook deploys a sleep indicator that is timed to the human breathing rhythm.

Like Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, he didn’t personally invent the products he came to symbolize, and like those industry titans, he died in a world largely of his making. A charismatic showman, Jobs understood the visual power of images. Apple’s 1984 ad was perhaps one of the most memorable commercials in history. And after leading Pixar to its early successes, Jobs triumphantly returned to Apple in 1997 with a hugely popular advertising campaign, “Think Different”, featuring many inspirational and influential icons of the last century. When iPod was released, the silhouetted models whose only identifiable features were white headphones became instantly-recognizable, and oft-parodied, icons.

But the ur-icon of Apple was Mr. Jobs himself, in his signature turtleneck jumper, jeans and trainers. His presentations at Apple expos were passionate and captivating; his slides visually simple, yet striking. Altogether, he managed to whip up a quasi-religious fervour for his company and its products. To some, he was an iGod; to others, he was an iCon.

But history will not downplay Jobs’ idiosyncrasies, paternalist outbursts, and irascible rule at Apple. As Auden wrote of tyrants,

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand.

Shooting the Apple


An inventor and an artist, Dr. Harold Edgerton, a professor at MIT, pioneered the strobe flash, stop-action photography and a method of taking super-fast images called Rapatronic. These images allowed very early times in a nuclear explosion’s fireball growth to be recorded on film. The exposures were often as short as 10 nanoseconds, and each Rapatronic camera would take exactly one photograph.

Harold Edgerton’s most famous picture was that of a bullet going through an apple. Taken in 1964 with flash duration of about a millionth of a second using a specially built strobe, it became a very famous image. The .30 bullet, traveling at 2,800 feet per second, pierced right through the apple, disintegrating the latter completely. Edgerton used this image in his MIT lecture, “How to make applesauce,” to illustrate that the entry of the supersonic bullet is as visually explosive as the exit.

However, there are many more famous Edgertons: a splashing milk drop resembling a king’s crown; a golfer, shot at 100 flashes per second, swinging his driver into an Archimedian spiral, etc. Pictures of fencers, tennis players, rope-skippers and ping-pong enthusiasts, all caught in action sequences, call to mind futurist paintings with their frantic sequences of motion. Edgerton’s inventions for underwater photography alongside Jacques-Yves Cousteau have yielded such marvels as his photo of the top of a lava mountain thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. His picture of Stonehenge, taken from a night-flying plane, brings the eerie stone slabs to life.

See Edgerton’s works at here.