Photographer J. Henry Fair has covered important environmental stories for Discover, from pork farms to toxic fertilizer byproducts. In January, powerHouse Books will be releasing Fair’s book The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis, which includes essays from James Hansen, Allen Hershkowitz, and Frances May. Fair writes:
“Tremendous research has gone into understanding what is seen in these images. Information was gathered from numerous sources: newspapers, websites, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), EIA (Energy Information Agency), environmental groups, satellite images, and other sources within and outside of government. However, even these attempts at exposing the problem at hand can sometimes fall short. Due to exemptions granted to powerful industries, some of the most egregious industrial scars are “off the record.” The notorious Bevill Amendment to the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) is particularly damaging. For instance, the uranium content of phosphate fertilizer waste is well known, but due to RCRA exemptions, appears nowhere “on the record,” and thus the industry escapes the expense of proper handling. Also, one can only photograph what can be seen; often the most dangerous pollutants are invisible.”
Above is an image from the book showing a waste from a paper products factory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—aerators have created a pattern in foam on the surface of the pool. This image was one that Fair made during his initial investigation of industrial regions around the Mississippi from the air. Fair often researches a topic extensively, and identifies locations using Google Earth before traveling and hiring a local pilot.
This was no ordinary bird. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory photographer Brad Plummer knew his time with the precious Achaeopteryx thermopolis fossil would be short, so he made the best of it:
It surprised me to see the Archaeopteryx fossil arrive at the lab with such nonchalance–the two scientists pulled up in a dusty truck with it on the backseat wrapped in foam in a wooden box. I knew the best time to get the shot would be the instant the case came open, before it was mounted for the experiment. I had pre-arranged access to the fossil for a few minutes, although once the lid came off a scrum of onlookers crowded me as I tried to work. This would be the last chance for anyone to photograph the fossil, with nothing between lens and bone, for a long, long time.
Exhibition model makers working to fit sculptor John Gurche’s life-sized recreation of Lucy onto the model tree in the Lucy diorama section of the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian museum in Washington. Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) was discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia in 1974 by Donald Johanson and Maurice Taieb. Lucy was nicknamed that very night as Donald Johanson’s team celebrated to the Beatles’ hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Her Ethiopian name, “Dinenesh,” is Amharic for “you are beautiful.”
Courtesy Chip Clark/Smithsonian Institution
David Hanson’s robots are by now somewhat familiar faces, including his Einstein robot currently being used as a research tool at Javier Movellan’s Machine Perception Lab at UCSD, and the punk rock conversationalist Joey Chaos. A less familiar face is that of Bina Rothblatt, the blonde at the end of the table in the above photograph. Bina is a robot commissioned by Sirius Satellite Radio inventor Martine Rothblatt to look like her beloved wife. Take that, uncanny valley!
Photographer Timothy Archibald and I worked closely on this project with the idea of creating portraits, and maybe a kind of family portrait, of the Hanson robots. After flying to Texas to shoot Hanson and robots at his home and workshop in Dallas, Texas, Archibald wrote to me.
“Here is a big house in a Texas suburb that looks normal on the outside. On the inside it is robot making company made up of a floating array of 9-12 employees sculpting things, working on the electrical stuff and writing code for software…taking over the living room, den, kitchen, etc. On the upstairs level is where Hanson, his wife and 3 year old live. They they are in month three of this arrangement. There is no down time. People trickle in at 11:00 AM and stay until 1-3 AM everyday including weekends. They are cranking right now, trying to hit deadlines with The Android Portrait of Bina Rothblatt as well as a potential consumer robot called ZENO. Curiously, Hanson’s son is also named Zeno. There is a story on how that came to be, of course…”
To see more photography from this story, check out DISCOVER magazine’s May 2010 issue on newsstands now.
Katherine Batiste of Hanson Robotics working on a computer with “An Android Portrait Of Bina Rothblatt” sits on the table.
British photographer Sarah Pickering likes to see stuff burn. So much so that she melted some of her equipment while lingering overlong in the doorway of a burning room while shooting forensic fires at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire. Sarah Pickering once considered becoming a forensics photographer, but quickly realized she didn’t have the stomach for it. Fortunately for us, Pickering explored her fascination through other routes. The first photo here was made at the Fire Service College and documents a forensics training exercise. The sets, called burn units, are meticulously constructed inside shipping containers, and planned according to a narrative that points to the cause of the conflagration. The fire investigators must uncover the cause afterwards, by clues left in the ashes. In the case of the first photograph here, the cause of the fire was a cigarette.
The following explosion photographs were made during “shopping trips” in Kent and Lincolnshire where bombs and other devices were set off for groups of potential buyers from the military and police. Sarah shot the explosions relatively slowly, at ¼ of a second. This allowed for recording the trajectory of the explosions, but meant that she had to rely on her intuition and experience to time the exposures to the silence following the countdown and before the blast.
All images here are from the new book of Sarah Pickering’s photographs from Aperture, “Explosions, Fires and Public Order.” Sarah Pickering is also currently having an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.
Images courtesy Aperture
In the pitch black, with his penlight in hand, Caleb Charland traces the shape of a cube along a ruler. Charland made 13 exposures on one sheet of 4×5 film for the cube image you see here. Twelve exposures for each side of the cube, and one exposure with the light on to fill in the shapes of the room and the table. “I guess you could do it in Photoshop a lot quicker and easier but I enjoy the analog process” says Charland, “there is something to working within limits.”
All too often physics articles are illustrated by ubiquitous digital renderings that ultimately explain little to the chart-phobic like myself. Using images of objects in the visible, physical world was a way to break away from the usual science-imaging formula. These three images were commissioned to illustrate an article in the Discover special issue Extreme Physics, on newsstands through March 22nd, 2010.