What is in a bubble?

While preparing my images of Amsterdam for a presentation I took a closer look at the details in one image of the Rijks Museum where I had briefly stopped to watch a street artist make huge bubbles. I have also taken bubble images in other destinations in the past. To my surprise I noticed I had captured the faces of other onlookers in the bubbles, some of whom were taking photographs of the same man and his bubbles. The afternoon light and my positioning appeared to be conducive to bringing out a range of colour effects that made the images intriguing. I was fortunate to have reasonably exposed images which allowed close cropping of an otherwise large image. Enthused by the discovery I went onto look at other images taken at the same time. The result of the search for faces in the bubbles produced a small collection of images.

One of my favourites from this discovery is this young man and the Real American Hot Dog advert with stars and stripes of the flag in the background. It reminds me of images of James Dean in the 1950s. The passers by and the photographer (who may well have caught me in their images!) ground the image in the genre of street photography and not just portrait. The Moviepix image for the film Rebel without a Cause 1955 shows a striking resemblance to my image.

In trawling for faces I also noticed that there were some bubbles containing reflections of the landscape. I was amazed to see how the landscape was distorted in different ways according to the size and shape of the bubbles and the wide range of colours each one contained.

I love the colours and the swirling landscape in these bubbles and the more neutral background. Unfortunately there is some fogging on the lower left corner and across diagonally from left to right which may have been a bubble but could also have been an effect of light on my lens.

I have shared these images for comments with my tutor and friends who have been similarly intrigued and positive about the effects. I had been a little apprehensive in sharing them as I had felt a child-like excitement with this discovery and wondered if the images would be seen and dismissed as child’s play not worthy of accolade as good or even great photography.

Since then I have been researching the internet for bubble making tackle. My intention is to take this to the beach and see if I can take images of debris and landscapes through bubbles. As I and my tutor noted the oily effect of the bubble liquid on the images has a level of symbiosis with the movement of water on the shores.

During this experience I wondered whether others have created portraits or landscapes in this way before. I had noticed images where a glass or crystal ball has been used to capture landscapes on Instagram and liked these. I had also experimented with taking images through a wine glass briefly some time ago. There are plenty of sources for crystal balls some of which claim to have healing properties as well as being an asset for photographers (added value!). In addition, the large multiple bubble makers are available as multiple bubble garland wands or try string if you want to make one huge creation. I hope to try making a garland wand an am realising I may need an assistant to operate it while I take the photographs.

I have now discovered Richard Heeks who has found fame with his bubble photography. This article gives a couple of his tips relating to the consistency of the bubble solution, the time of day with regard to light and the background for the bubbles, all good information for my future experiments. His images include landscape as do mine and are taken in natural light as mine will be on the beach. His are carefully composed to include the immediate surroundings (e.g. patio doors) as well as the landscape in the distance. I like the way many of the bubbles contain a double image giving a symmetry and reflective feel to the composition. In contrast my interest is not just in perfect sphere shaped bubbles but the long undulating and distorted shaped ones. In his interview he explains that he takes thousands of images to get the exact moment he strives for. I will have to be well prepared for my experimentation with extra batteries and memory cards.


Yoo, Alice. 2013. Magical Reflections on Soap Bubbles. My Modern Met. 20th January 2013. Available at: https://mymodernmet.com/richard-heeks-bubble-photography/ . [accessed 04-12-2017].

Rahman,Khaleda. 2015. Is James Dean’s ‘cursed’ Porsche about to be found? On the 60th anniversary of the actor’s death, man claims he saw wreck of the car that killed the star being hidden away when he was a boy. DAILYMAIL.COM. 30th September 2015. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3254422/Is-James-Dean-s-cursed-Porsche-60th-anniversary-actor-s-death-museum-claims-close-tracking-wreck-car-killed-star.html#i-4e957eede3646a37 [accessed 04-12-2017].

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