In this section, Felice Frankel describes making pictures as “an act of discovery” for both the scientist and his or her audiences. She also shares how she hopes her work as an educator will inspire scientists to demand better images of the photographers they work with, in order to convey complicated concepts in their work.
Making Pictures as an Act of Discovery
There’s nothing better than a picture for communicating scientific concepts. If you set a flatbed scanner at a particular resolution, you can actually see the object you’re capturing as if using a microscope. This process renders interesting images that compel viewers to spend time looking. They discover aspects of the object they would never have noticed had you not used the scanner.
So making science and engineering pictures is really about focusing the viewer’s attention. That’s why I try to get students to think about composition and ways to make the viewer want to spend time looking at the object. Otherwise, no matter how brilliant your work is, if people don't want to look, it's not going to get the attention you want.
Also, the making of pictures gets you, as the scientist, to look and see things that you would not ordinarily pay attention to. It’s an act of discovery for both you and your audience, and it's very powerful. I think it should be part of the standard curriculum at MIT.
Teaching Scientists to Demand More than Good Enough
I’ve come to realize, however, that, in my work as an educator, I’m not necessarily going to train new photographers. Researchers really don’t have time to become skilled photographers. But what I think I am training them to do is to raise their standards, to show them what enhancing their images can do for the complex concepts they are trying to understand and to convey to their audiences. Hopefully, they will begin to demand better images from whomever they ask to produce them. It’s about providing them with an education; it’s showing them what can be done and demanding it somehow.