Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Recap - Flight

Experiments in photographic aeronautics.
Buoyed by sparkling beverages and bubbly chocolate, our conversations at the last meeting of term took to the air, reading Thomas Baldwin's Airopaidia (1786) and considering the poetry, practicalities, and potential pitfalls of balloon voyages.

Using Richard Holmes's Falling Upwards (2013), and Marie Thébaud-Sorger's 'Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia, or the Aerial View in Color' in Seeing from Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture, Mark Dorrian, Frédéric Pousin (eds), (2013), we thought about the new kinds of experiences which Baldwin was trying to convey with his narrative. We felt that Baldwin had communicated well the exhiliration and novel sensory impressions of his flight, though perhaps he had exaggerated its tranquillity. Looking at the extraordinary images which accompany the text helped think about how Baldwin charted his journey, making myriad observations, and also how he was challenged by new aerial perspectives.

We were left wanting to know more about Baldwin himself: though evidently physically present, from top to toe to taste-buds, in the balloon, and clearly familiar with the local Chester landscape, in other ways he was frustratingly absent. We could find out more about his balloon-supplier Lunardi (including his unfortunate inclusion of his pet cat as part of his aerial cargo) than we could about Baldwin. In some ways, then, by combining a very specific account of one balloon voyage with an inclusive narrative voice, Baldwin enabled any of his readers to imagine they were alongside him above the clouds.

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