Charles Tsiang ’66, SM ’75: “I think this was shot in the old Armory, across the street from 77 Mass Ave, in 1964 during an exam. Pencils and slide rule.
“The entire top floor of that building was converted into a photo studio and darkroom lab, where visiting artist/photographer/mystic philosopher Minor White ran a course in the architecture department. I took his two-semester class, and I loved the experience. We were issued Calumet 4x5 cameras, and we did studio shots up in the fifth-floor studio and around Boston. We developed and printed in the lab up there and critiqued displays in the gallery.
"The ground floor of the Armory (the exam site in the picture) was where I saw Chuck Berry in concert during Spring Weekend 1966. The opening act was Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
“If you had a morning class across the street in Bldg. 7, you could smell the sweetness from the Necco candy factory up the street. That would be hard to take if you had skipped breakfast to rush to class—and I didn’t even like their Necco wafers!
“I wish I had a photo to share of Doc Edgerton’s lab or a picture of Doc and me in his Boston Whaler out on the Charles River. My undergrad thesis involved an underwater device to measure light dispersion in water, and I had initially tested my rig in the MIT swimming pool. That didn’t prove anything since the water was so clear. I needed some muddy water, so out on the River Charles we went. Maybe Doc was interested because he was so involved in underwater photography (recall his expeditions with Jacques Cousteau!), but truly, I think he simply loved getting his students involved in making things and gaining the satisfaction of seeing new devices work.
“My thesis did zero to advance science or technology, but it was an experience with Doc that shaped my early career. A couple of years later I developed the control system for a laser satellite tracking system employed by Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in its global network of tracking stations. It was always fun doing stuff with Doc. Every microsecond counted.”
Charles Tsiang ’66, SM ’75 lives in New Jersey and still loves photography.
Tech Reflection is a new Slice of MIT series that tells the first-person stories behind MIT photos.
Want to continue the stroll down memory lane? Participate in Tech Reunions, taking place June 4–6.