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Sun Flash lamp house with quartz FT-17A flash lamp

Major collection: Science & Technology
Named collection: Harold E. Edgerton Collection
Object type: electronic flash
Maker: Edgerton, Germeshausen and Grier, Inc.
Date made: 1947
Materials: electronic flash
Measurements: 15 in high x 7 in deep x 9 in wide with power cord.
Nomenclature: photographic tools and equipment - high speed photographic equipment
Classification: tools and equipment

10" reflector and General Electric Co. FT-17A50 quartz lamp. As commercial photographers switched to color film, a flash that could mimic sunlight became important. The Sunflash was the first commercial unit that could so nearly duplicate natural light that it was impossible to tell the difference in the final print. Charles Wyckoff, Edgerton's long-term colleague, worked on the Sunflash and recalled the motivation for its invention: "Most of the big studios, once a year, traipsed out to Arizona with a bevy of models, clothes, and all that stuff." With the Sunflash "simulated sun" on the market, though, "there was no more Arizona from then on." History: Designed to be used with 10,000 watt second power supply to simulate sunlight for studio fashion photography. Charlie Wyckoff 08/06/93: "This is a critical thing. What you're seeing right here is a simulated sun, that's why the reflector. To give it the same subtended (?) angle the sun would have at about 30 feet or so. When we made this for the New York commercial photographers, they couldn't understand why, when I came down there with the first one, I said the first thing I want you to do is to clean your studio out and paint all your walls white. 'Oh no, no, no. You can't do it.' Well, do it because that's going to be the sky. And then I brought out this thing with the refclector and they said, "What's that?" and I said, that's the sun. Sure enough, when they took the picture and they looked at it, they said, 'Wow!'" Bedi asked, "Was it hard to convince photographers to try this or were they anxious to try it?" Wyckoff replied, "Well, this one studio, it was very simple, they're the ones that called us in, because most of the big studios, once a year, traipsed out to Arizona with a bevy of models, clothes, and all that stuff, and this group, Commercial Illustrators, wasn't in on that. They said, 'We want to get in on that thing. We don't want those models going out to Arizona. We want them right here in our studio.' So they were sold to start with. So they said, 'Can you do it?' So we said, sure we'll do it. We didn't quite know how, but we figured it out. And sure enough, they got all the business, so there was no more Arizona from then on." Bedi asked, "What did you have to do differently to make it look like the sun?" Wyckoff replied, "Well, as you can see here, see normally this thing has a big reflector on it and it was basically for aerial flash photography and the Boston Garden events and things like that. So a reflector like that (indicating the IN2414) was tiny. These reflectors were . . . big thigns (referring to aerial photography reflectors). The first thing I did was to use the bare bulb and I could see that that was too small, that made the shadows too sharp. That's why I needed something bigger. I did all this down there on the spot, by the way, this was similar to what Doc did on Cousteau's ship. Because I didn't have (sic), you know, I wasn't up here in Boston, I was in New York. So I ripped apart one of their flood units and took the reflector out and said that looks about the right size. I put it in back of the tube, taped the thing on . . . The hardest job I had, as I say, was convincing them to paint all the walls white. Everything was white. Well, that's unbelievable in a commercial studio, you don't do that. That was what the sky was supposed to be like. Bedi asked, "And they were mainly working in black-and-white?" Wyckoff replied, "Black-and-white and color. But we did all of our first results in black-and-white because that was cheaper and easier to do; you could develop it and in five minutes you had the answer." Misc. notes: never used


Caption: Edgerton, Germeshausen, & Grier, Inc., USA "Sun Flash" lamp with 10-inch reflector, GE Co. FT-17A50 quartz lamp, and power cord. [1947] When most commercial photograpehrs shifted to using color films almost exclusively, an artificial light source that could closely duplicate sunlight became very important. The 10,000-watt-second EG&G Sunflash was the first commercially made unit that could so nearly substitute for natural sunlight that it became effectively impossible to tell the difference in the final print. It was introduced by Edgerton and Charles Wyckoff at the request of Commercial Illustrators in New York City. "Most of the big studios, once a year, traipsed out to arizona with a bevy or models, clothes, and all that stuff," Wyckoff recalled, "and this group, Commercial Illustrators, wasn't in on that. They said, 'We want to get in on that thing. We don't want those models going out to Arizona. We want them right here in our studio.' So they were sold to start with. So they said, 'Can you do it?' So we said sure, we'll do it. We didn't quite know how, but we figured it out. And sure enough, they got all the business, so there was no Arizona from then on." But, as usual, the equipment needed some on-the-spot improvisation to get the results promised. The Sunflash was adapted from the flashes used in nighttime aerial photography and for photographing large-scale events, like the circus or rodeo performances in the Boston Garden. The average commercial studio seemed intimate by comparison. So, Wycoff remembered, some changes were called for. "The first thing I did was to use the bare bulb and I could see that that was too small, that it made the shadows too sharp. That's why I needed something bigger. I did all this down there on the spot . . . I ripped apart one of their flood units and took the reflector out and said that looks about the right size. I put it in back of the tube, taped the thing on."
IN-2415

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