Monday, May 30, 2011

Optimer(For The New York Times)

If you're a photo-J in San Diego there are about 4 things you shoot on a regular basis, 1 is military stuff, 2 is border, immigration issues, 3 is triathletes or skateboarders, and 4 are scientists. Each time I get assigned to shoot one of these, I have to dig into my creative reserves to find a different way to shoot it. So this week , I was assigned to photograph a scientist who developed a drug to help fight Diarrhea(lovely, I know). The main issue with photographing in science labs(as shown above) is that they all look alike and the scientists are usually extremely camera shy. No matter what the research, finding a cure for cancer, the flu, different uses for stem cells, algae to fuel, or ,as in this case, a cure for diarrhea, every lab is usually filled with lots of beakers, petri dishes, drippers, droppers and little machines that shake viles of liquid. Color is almost always non existent as the walls are white and the light is usually a sickly florescent green. So you can imagine there is always quite a bit of anxiety before showing up to one of these. The question is always, "how do I make this look different or unique from the hundreds of other shots that are in mags and newspapers everyday". Also, I get tired of the Red or Blue gel-shots that are commonly used. In fact, most clients tell me to stay away from that as it has been used waaaaay too much.
So a few things I'm beginning to figure out is to just keep it simple and clean. At most shoot through bottles of liquid, wires and other gizmos to give it that mad-scientist look or just to show the complexity of what they do. Also, many times the actual scientist you are shooting can make the photo. Just roll with the uncomfortable-ness and exploit it. Sounds a bit cruel but I think we all have an idea of what these people are about. I personally think they do very noble work and have the utmost respect but just know they are a bit goofy.

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