Sunbeam Cutter Documenter Documenter // Adam Diston
I have this picture of a girl trying to cut a sunbeam with a pair of scissors. It’s quite popular and I bet many others have it. It was taken in 1886 by a man named “Adam Diston”, an early photographer who was born and resided in Scotland. While I found a copy of the image as part of a wikimedia collection, there is no documentation of the guy on any big time wiki website. Lucky for us he is featured on the lovingly maintained “edinphoto” website as well as various blogs.
The blog post linked in-line above speaks to the immediate representation of “childlike wonder” in our titular photograph. I’m going to forgo any interpretations of my own and instead largely (albeit within a small post section) clamour over this “edinphoto” digital museum and their page for him. While Adam has quite an expansive portfolio of generic portraiture and some landscapes, the context of the more elaborate captures are of extra interest.
While it is often a given, especially in this case, that photographs are staged and posed-for with an artistic intent, this inference becomes obscured if done with good enough crisis actors - doubly so with enough age, artifact/distortion and obscurity. For instance one (and in the general regard others) photograph has a very convincing taste of poverty and texture of destitution, but is with some likelihood almost as fake as an Instagram post of the modern era. If you weren’t paying attention to the careful divinations of a centuries-old journal inspecting archivist such as ours at “edinphoto”, you would probably think this was an accurate and emotional depiction of real 19th century poor people, like I did at first.
Our man Adam saw international renown for his work, as proven by his medal collection of medals awarded to him by various early institutions and patrons of photography. For those of us born in the wake of the digital devolution, these are what we might currently call “play buttons”. In fact there’s quite a considerable set of resources about the man himself on file, including his later exploration(s?) into poetry. This is a website I will have to return to soon for data harvesting purposes for my ongoing amalgam construction and mind attuning. It’s a shame they don’t appear to have a donation box anywhere on the site.