Alan Sailer: Impact photography
Alan Sailer is a Californian engineer with a penchant for freezing time. His specialises particularly in freezing the moment at which objects of his choosing are smashed to smithereens by a bullet, although he also dabbles in firing his subjects at high-speed into stationary objects using an air cannon. Sailer’s amazing photographs of these evanescent moments show us everyday objects like we’ve never seen them before.
After taking up digital photography about five years ago, Sailer gradually became interested in doing high-speed shots: ‘I scoured the Intenet, found an old Scientific American article on building a microsecond flash and set about building one. Scrounged much of the stuff, I work in the electronic industry, so that helped…’ (Take a look at the article if you’re interested in building one yourself, but be careful – the flash runs at a fairly unforgiving 20,000 volts!) In this shot you can see the laser which activates the flash a microsecond after the moment of impact:
The 56-year-old first shot to cult-fame when he decided to reproduce fellow engineer Harold Edgarton‘s famous playing card shot, replacing the playing card with a razor for redoubled amazingness. ‘The shot scared me,’ recalls Sailer, ‘I didn’t know if the pieces of the razor blade would come flying out!’ In the end, the risk paid off – the amazing photo has been viewed over 270,000 times on flickr.
Since then, Sailer has decimated hundreds of different materials and objects, experimenting with the positioning and timing of the flash to create amazing technicolour explosions. For his War Against Christmas series, he filled up gaudy Christmas tree decorations with various substances and… well, shot them with his gun. He’s a nice man, really…
Contrary to appearances, Sailer claims not to be a great fan of guns: ‘It’s just that the only way to get great high speed photos is to photograph something going at high speed. I’ve tried to think of a more peaceful way of getting high speed shots, but so far no luck. Even a table saw blade is going slow compared to the speed of this flash.’ Even so, Sailer has managed to find other ways to create amazing photographs, including smashing them into each other with air cannon, and blowing them to pieces with controlled explosions.
Photographs published with kind permission of Alan Sailer. Visit his Flickr stream.