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BCA News: Winter 2020
 

The Royal Photographic Society Science Photographer of the Year
Professor Norm Barker, FRPS, FBCA

On a recent trip in October 2019, I had the oppourtunity to travel to the Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI) meeting which was held in Belfast, Ireland. It was a fantastic conference with an excellent program that was geared towards the scientific graphic designer, photographer and illustrator. Belfast is an incredibly beautiful city and I had a chance to sample a couple of tasty Guinness Ales, and made time to visit the Titanic Museum, which is an incredible must-see museum with both architectural grandeur and incredible exhibits. The visitor experience is a behind the scenes story of what it was like to live in Belfast (circa 1910) and to work in the Harland & Wolff shipyard which was state of the art for the day in technology. It was very difficult back-breaking manual work, building the largest ships in the world.

After the IMI meeting I had the chance to head back to London to spend a few days and catch the opening ceremony for the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), Science Photographer of the Year.

Gallery Entrance with photograph of soap bubbles by © Kym Cox. Bubbles optimize space and minimize their surface area for a given volume of air. This phenomenon makes them a useful tool in many areas of research, in particular, materials science, for showing how things fit together.

The exhibit was held at The Science Museum, right across from the Victoria & Albert Museum and around the corner from The Museum of Natural History, right off Exhibition Road in South Kensington. The Science Museum in London has an international reputation with beautiful gallery space and permanent collections, with something to interest all ages. The Royal Photographic Society's inaugural Science Photographer of the Year celebrates some astounding images from all different disciplines of science.


Some of the short-listed photographers in attendance at the opening: Chris Harvey, Yas Crawford, Peter Rowley, Juliet Evans, Kym Cox, Ray Urwin, Norm Barker, Richard Germain, Marge Bradshaw

I was lucky enough to have three of my images exhibited and chosen for the short-list selection. This is one of the top venues in the world to host an exhibit of scientific photographs. These photographs were captured by photographers of all ages and experience levels from around the world, truly an international exhibition, chosen by an international panel of science experts.


Dallas Green, a television presenter, author and one of the exhibition judges stands in front of the winning image for the RPS Science Photographer of the Year, Launching a Mini Boat by Morgan Trimble.

Science Photographer of the Year was awarded to South African, Morgan Trimble for her image entitled Launching a Mini Boat. This photo shows a tiny vessel being released to monitor ocean currents and the wind in order to research and educate about climate change.

Young Science Photographer of the Year (under 18 years old) has been awarded to Jason Chen of the USA. Jason's photograph, titled Growl, shows an instructional dog model which was on display at his local veterinary school. Jason is 17 years old, and lives in San Jose, California.

Since its invention, photography has connected the worlds of art and science with images which spark and satiate curiosity in equal measure. Through wonderful images of aesthetic beauty, we can tell stories about the world and the universe as well as reveal places and phenomena that the naked eye will never see. Photography and science have always had a close relationship, with photography acting as a tool to aid research and reveal previous hidden worlds. After all, the photographic process was invented by both and artist and a scientist. Since its very beginnings in 1853, The Royal Photographic Society has always championed photography as a creative way to investigate and understand science. It has also promoted and exhibited scientific images from names like William Henry Fox Talbot, Frederic Evans and Roger Fenton, and continues the tradition today.

Visitors to the exhibition will be taken on a scientific journey, from surprises lurking in the human body to glimpses of exotic microclimates and advanced instruments that can provide a new view of the heavens. Visit this exhibition to witness how science reveals new details of our extraordinary and many-faceted cosmos, from visual wonders to abstract images with an eerie beauty all of their own. –The Science Museum

Most of the images were certainly beautiful, but many of the images pose as many questions as they answered because there were no real legends to speak of. I have always felt that a great scientific photograph is an interesting story, the image should certainly be able to stand on its own but the explanation can help elucidate as well as educate the audience. It's also a great opportunity to get the lay person interested in science.

In all fairness, most museum visitors don't read labels, I must be one of the few. They had a beautiful space that was broken down into sections with titles like The Living World, The Human World, The World From Above etc., which help give an organization to the flow. I know how expensive these shows are to produce but it certainly would have been exciting to see more of the images blown up to a larger more dramatic size. Perhaps next time! I think the most important thing is to see how interested people are in the beauty of science. The exhibit was on view from October 7, 2019 – January 5, 2020 and will continue to travel to science festivals and museums around the UK for the next year.


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