Glass is unpredictable. It’s not unlike you or I in that it is subject to variable sets of conditions, circumstances, and unforeseeable moments of poetic catastrophe. Dropping, smashing, shattering, cracking, and crashing will cause irreparable damage. Contrary to nature’s general preference for order, the atoms, ions, and molecules in glass are not arranged in any specific geometric pattern. Here and there, small clusters of atoms may appear to arrange themselves in some type of pattern, but the composition of the material as a whole is just a mess. Most often, when mixed, atoms will form nicely ordered crystalline patterns; however, glass is brittle because it lacks any orderly structure. Although the bonds are very strong, their rigidity and poorly ordered organization mean that any microscopic cracks or impurities in the glass become weak points. When glass is made, dust, cooling rates, and contact with other surfaces will cause these microscopic cracks to form. When pressure is applied to the glass in an attempt to bend or alter its form, these cracks immediately give way and the glass breaks; but not into haphazard pieces. It comes apart along its lines of cleavage into fragments whose boundaries, though once invisible, are predetermined by its structure. The raw materials used to make glass also contain a lot of impurities to begin with. You can try to purify glass, but some impurities will always be left. Its greenish tinge is due to traces of iron found in the soda-lime base from which glass originates. Predictability is not contingent on eliminating these variables. Rather, a state of stability can be achieved with the right set of tools for encountering the inevitability of uncertainty. These include the forecasting and evaluation of risks together with the identification of procedures used to avoid or minimize their impact.
In contrast to polycrystalline materials, which do not generally transmit visible light, most glass is transparent to visible light. Glass does not contain the internal subdivisions associated with grain boundaries and does not scatter light in the same manner. This unique quality of the amorphous solid allows it to refract, reflect and transmit light without scattering it. High-index glasses, inaccurately known as “crystal” when used in glass vessels, cause a more chromatic dispersion of light and are prized for their diamond-like optical qualities. The high refractive index and low rate of dispersion make it perfect for high-quality camera lenses. These internal structures affect the presentation, creation, manipulation, and display of images.
In photography, there are two types of distortions that result from the interplay between light and glass: optical and perspectival. Both result in a deformation of the image and are, at times, due to the physical properties of glass. While optical distortion is caused by the optical design of lenses and therefore often called “lens distortion,” perspectival distortions are caused by the position of a camera's lens relative to the subject or the position of the subject within the frame. The important point is that the unpredictability of glass extends beyond its microscopic structure. Regardless of structural imperfections in a lens, an image is invariably misshapen when reproduced mechanically. The representation of a person or thing’s external form will always be twisted, warped or skewed when filtered through glass.
When refracted through a lens, each ray of light both enters and exits the lens. Its trajectory slightly altered. The light which passes into the camera is recorded by a piece of light-sensitive film or a sensor. This surface records a predetermined spectrum of light—that which has been deemed important to capture. Tones which fall outside of this spectrum of light either fade into shadows or show up like hot spots burnt in the image. In addition to its refractive qualities, the unpredictability of glass is exacerbated by its ability to reflect. When light is reflected, it is thrown back without being absorbed by the surface. Each lens, like a window, frames the view of the outside, inscribed with a reflection of the inside. What these optical devices reflect are the intersections where philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic discourses meet mechanical techniques, institutional requirements, and socio-economic forces. What doesn't enter the lens is a reflection of an idealized observing subject.
In this manner glass stacks images to compose fractured tableaux which are difficult to understand. Images as precarious as their substrate. Each image representing a relationship between inside and outside. What happens however when these reflections are laid end to end; adjacent in space? They resemble the cells of a film. A formal organization that caters to visual reason and narrative structure. It lends stability to the inherently unpredictable interplay between image and material; light and glass. Each image becomes anchored by that which precedes it and gives way to that which extends beyond it. While the stacked image may imply correlation or lack thereof, causation is mined from the origins of that which exists in sequence.
We need light and we will go to great distances to find it. However, in general, evidence suggests that we are attracted to the degree of difference in the shifting tones of a television picture, photograph, or image rather than the brightness (luminance). With regard to glass, clarity is what separates us from that which exists beyond its boundaries. It occupies the space where things change, and hence it is used to determine the boundaries between objects of importance. The longer we are eluded by indivisibility the stronger our desire for continuity. In spite of its inherent uncertainty, glass has an astounding ability to permit attraction because loving purely is a consent to distance; pure love is the adoration of the space between ourselves and the object of our affection. It is not the light or its source that we desire, but the space within which it ambulates: the space defined by the reflection, refraction, and transmission of light. Despite our inability to predict the types of drastic changes associated with this uncertain space, we are attracted to it. For example, the onset of a bright light on a dark background is often an exogenous cue for visual attention, but dark on a bright background will work just the same. While saliency does correlate with where we look, it depends a lot on what we are trying to do and the demands of the circumstance. You don't look up at the sun if you are looking for your friend in a crowd.