Image by Felice Frankel/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
Let’s face it: science can be pretty boring sometimes. You have to deal with a whole bunch of charts and graphs that track the development of something over time, tons of numbers, and gratuitous amounts of safety precautions. Obviously, for the people doing science work, none of that should change. It’s the only way we can get good data and make big discoveries, while simultaneously ensuring that we don’t die slow and horrible deaths in the process. But for the average Joe/Jill that just wants to enjoy some low-effort science news with their morning coffee (I’m assuming that’s you, anyway), this kind of science news can be downright painful to try and understand. Well, aside from us, rest assured that there are people out there who try to make science as easy to digest as possible. Especially a woman by the name of Felice Frankel.
Science and photography mix well, it seems
From a quick visit to her website, one can immediately understand just what Frankel’s all about: using photography to make science appeal to an otherwise apathetic market. And well… see for yourself. These photos are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Apparently, Frankel has always had a lifelong love of science, going so far as to major in chemistry and biology. However, she’s always had a passion for arts as well, and combining the two just felt right.
Frankel currently helps students at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology. They come to her often for advice regarding how best to make the information they’ve discovered appeal to audiences oriented elsewhere than science. From that point, she walks them through the process of taking the best, most stunning and visually appealing photographs. The end goal is to translate via photography the main points of the research— a goal that, despite its incredibly abstract nature, Felice Frankel seems to nail down perfectly.
And her extensive track record doesn’t stop there. In addition to being a huge science major that specializes in photography, she’s also written a long list of books centered around the subject (8 books total, to be exact). These books are mostly educational experience, sometimes about photography, sometimes about science, and sometimes about photography in the context of science. A true renaissance woman, her latest book focuses on educating people in-depth about various aspects of photography; more specifically, very technical writing regarding how to take the best photos of all science things big, small, natural and artificial.
A helpful guide for those wanting to take good science pictures
From beautiful close-ups of the wings of the blue morpho butterfly to a series of chemical reactions displayed chronologically in a petri dish, Frankel has redefined what it means to present scientific data. Even if the concept itself is abstract and cannot be truly photographed (such as the laws of physics), she makes the point that photography can also be used metaphorically to represent such concepts. If you’d like to see more of her work, the end of her book provides more than enough examples of her use of photography in science. The book also provides helpful tips and tricks of the trade in addition to photography education: for instance, she uses a radically out-of-focus image of a makeup palette to give a colorful and appealing background to a drop of water, which is the main focus of the image.
So what does this all mean for you, the average reader? Well, it means only good things, I assure you. If Frankel continues to grow in her success, more and more high quality and visually appealing images will follow with your science news. This will make it much easier to understand, without overwhelming you with deeply technical scientific imaging. Unless that is your cup of tea, in which case, there’s still plenty of news out there for you.