Above: Calmness of Eternity © Yevhen Samuchenko

The Marriage of Science and Art

4th October 2019

A series of striking photographs of science in action goes on display at the Science Museum next week, as part of the Royal Photographic Society’s inaugural Science Photographer of the Year competition.

The AIM of the Science Photographer of the Year, launched in May of this year, was to “tell a story about science,” says Gary Evans, the Royal Photographic Society Science Exhibition Coordinator. The selectors were looking for “how science is used, how it looks or how it impacts people’s lives” as much as for the visual impact…

…and the resulting exhibition of the shortlisted pictures ticks all the boxes, celebrating the wonders of the scientific world, large and small, familiar and obscure: everything from outer space to the human body. Not only does this impressive showcase unite science and art, however, but it also brings together the Science Museum and the Royal Photographic Society in a fitting collaboration rooted in history – some 165 years after the RPS’s first public photography exhibition, hosted in 1854 at the South Kensington Museum… the precursor to the Science Museum.

“Since the very beginning, science has been integral to photography,” explains Evans. “Now photography has become integral to the way science is carried out and how it is communicated to the wider public.”

Science tv presenter Dallas Campbell is delighted to have been one of the competition judges. “Science is all around us,” he says, “whether it be engineering, astronomy, the microscopic world or nature, and what’s great is that you don’t even need professional camera equipment to capture it.” These images have been captured using a range of modern technologies – digital telescopes and the latest highly sophisticated medical imaging equipment in some cases, of course, but also via the smartphones that we all carry around in our pockets. The results are, almost without exception, genuinely breathtaking – revealing rare scientific phenomena as well as the science that affects our day-to-day lives.

Visitors will be able to view new interpretations of the world around them in playful yet illuminating studies of everyday materials, for example. Bernardo Cesare’s bright and engaging The Science of (Every?) Day Life [see below] demonstrates the crystallisation of a drop of the classic Italian bitter apéritif Aperol. Its usual vibrant orange colour reveals rainbow depths. You’ll never look at an Aperol Spritz in the same way again.

Roger Highfield, Science Director at the Science Museum and another of the competition judges, is thrilled to be hosting the exhibition. “Since its inception, photography has bridged the worlds of art and science with images which spark and sate curiosity in equal measure,” he says. “Through images of aesthetic beauty, we can tell stories about the universe and reveal places and phenomena that the naked eye will never see.”

Other photographs selected for the shortlist shed light on some of the more serious questions for which we look to science for answers, through thought-provoking images exploring environmental conservation, the protection of endangered wildlife and developments in human health.

The Science Museum likes to describe itself as ‘the home of human ingenuity’, with a world-class collection that forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. It aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives and to inspire visitors with iconic objects… and some of these images must surely be destined to become classics in their own right. The last word goes to Gary Evans: “We are delighted to be the guests of the Science Museum for this exhibition and we are sure the images will engage, entertain and educate in equal measure.”

The exhibition opens on Monday 7 October 2019 and continues to Sunday 5 January 2020. Entry is free, but ticketed.
To book visit sciencemuseum.org.uk/science-photographer

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