Photography, by definition, is a drawing by light, and its existence is founded on two parallel developments. There, first, must be a want to record events in images; the cave paintings documented the earliest known such desires to leave traces behind. Then, there needs to be a device to capture light to make images. The writings from the school of Mozi (c. 468–376 BCE) and Aristotle (384–322 BC) on the camera obscura present the understanding of optics by the Chinese and the ancient Greeks, such as the fact that light travels in a straight line and the effect of a pinhole camera. The nineteenth-century improvement on cameras and image capture capabilities, and the popularization of photography, inspired new artistic innovations and expanded the human understanding of the physical world. This mechanical device and others like it, such as the telescope and the microscope, mimic the function of the eye that receives light and, by design, help humans see clearer.
It is safe to argue that none of these fascinating advancements would have taken place without curiosity, desire, and most of all, ambition, which are all survival instincts. Astronomy is perhaps the perfect example to demonstrate the age-old ambition to understand beyond our planet and solar system, and the potential that through these explorations we might come to understand ourselves better.
Join literary scholar Eckart Goebel and artist Arthur Ou in a conversation on Ou’s photography series entitled Viewfinder (2020–2021), and Goebel’s publication entitled Ambition: An Essay on the Burning Desire to Rise (Bloomsbury, 2022). This panel will cross-examine the paradigms of curiosity from children and adults alike, and how it is recorded and debated in history, philosophy, literature, sciences, and the arts.