You might remember watching in awe as your grade school science teacher magically lit up an LED with a potato or three. There's not much to it—a natural acid serves as the electrolytic medium between a pair of terminals—but it's certainly a clever way to illustrate the basic principles of batteries and circuits. Now, photographer Caleb Charland is bringing back the science of natural batteries in a series of photos that might just evoke the same sense of wonder as those classroom demos from your childhood.
Back to Light, features daisy chains of fresh fruit basking in a glow of their power, so to speak. The apples and limes are a little more photogenic than the tubers that traditionally serve as the humble battery, but given his sense of composition, we'd bet that Charland could make potatoes look this good too. Since the long-exposure photographs are illuminated solely by their subject matter to make for a kind of autonomous still life, the light source is paramount; the arrangements are either backlit or clustered around the bulb, huddled together in quasi-ritualistic fashion powering small light sources.
The project is not only intriguing for highlighting the unusual use of fruit in an energy-giving sense, but also for fueling our curiosity about just how many citruses it would take to sustain household lights.
Here, for reference, is a short explanation of the science behind fruit-powered batteries:
It should probably go without saying, but the more fruit you've strung along the conductive wire, the more powerful the light ends up being. Charland's citrusy garlands range from orange slices to tree tops full of fruit—however much it takes to light the shots. While this might be an old educational trick, the designer's inspiration might be fit for a philosophy lecture:
The utter simplicity of this electrical phenomenon is endlessly fascinating for me. Many people have had the experience of drawing power from fruit in the classroom, and it never ceases to bring a smile to the face or a thought to the mind. This work speaks to a common curiosity we all have for how the world works as well as a global concern for the future of earth's energy sources. My hope is that these photographs function as micro utopias by suggesting and illustrating the endless possibilities of alternative and sustainable energy production. The cycle that begins with the light of our closest star implanting organic materials with nutrients and energy, is re-routed in these images, Back to Light, illuminating earth once again.
Check out more of Charland's work here.