How to Look at a Ceiling Light (and the tiny dead bugs inside the diffuser)

© Copyright 2022 Brody McCracken, Ryerson University.

When the sun goes down, the ceiling light assumes the night shift in illuminating our homes and workspaces, providing us with the opportunity to see. The often-undervalued service that the ceiling light provides quickly becomes apparent when a power outage or a burnt-out lightbulb momentarily leaves us in the dark. The ceiling light plays an integral role in our ability to look, but it is rarely the subject of our looking.

When you enter a dark room, the natural first response is to turn the lights on. It may take a moment to find the light switch in the darkness of an unfamiliar room but once you have been in a room enough times, reaching out into the darkness and turning on the light becomes second nature. We do it without even thinking about it, our muscle memory guiding our hands through the darkness to the switch that fills the room with light. When the lights go on, a number of things about a dark room begin to reveal themselves. Is it a messy room? What colour are the walls? Is it a bedroom or a bathroom? The light helps us answer these questions and by illuminating the room it offers us a great many things to look at and make observations about. But how often do we look at the light itself?

I think for many of us, the lights that become the most familiar are the lights that hang over our beds at night. These are the lights we see when we lay in our beds, daydreaming and staring at the ceiling. The light on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom always reminded me of a breast. It was a flush mount dome-style light fixture that had a circular area in the middle of the apex (areola) with a tiny spherical nut on top (nipple) that was used to screw the glass dome to the ceiling. This style of flush mount light often referred to as a “boob light”, is incredibly common due to its simplicity, cheap production cost, and ease of use. If you don’t already know what I am talking about, it’s likely that if you walk around your house right now you will find a glowing boob hanging from your ceiling.

a simple photograph of a flush mount dome style ceiling light.
Brody McCracken. “Ceiling Light.” Photograph. Ryerson University. 8 February 2022.

The ceiling light in my current bedroom (pictured to the right)  may not look like a boob, but it is interesting for a different reason. Inside the plastic dome that covers the lightbulb (also known as the diffuser) is a graveyard of tiny bugs. Upon unscrewing the diffuser, I found a small variety of little dead bugs that primarily consisted of tiny flies that likely belong to a species of gnat. The same delightful flush mount dome-style light fixture that enables me to read in bed at night also serves as an unfortunately lethal habitat for the tiny bugs that find their way inside. Our lives are filled with everyday objects that hold peculiar qualities similar to the ceiling boobs and bug graveyards that hang above our sleeping heads at night.




Works Cited

Bilis, Madeline. “Everybody Hates Boob Lamps, But They’re Actually Great.” Apartment Therapy, March 1, 2020,

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.