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Review of International Images for Science Exhibition 2011
Written by Vanessa Champion   
Images in Science at the Houses of Parliament 2011
photo credit Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS 2011

Creativity Backgrounds were pleased to be asked to sponsor this innovative and exciting "International Images for Science 2011" exhibition staged by the Royal Photographic Society.

More so, as this is the first time for nearly 40 years that the RPS has curated such a front-line and progressive exhibition celebrating scientific and applied photography. The collection of images, I have to say, are amazingly beautiful. Indeed, some of the images are quite breath-taking, which, when you find out what some of the images capture, it challenges your established perception of beauty and appearance.


Thought Provoking

L to R: Afzal Ansary, exhibition co-ordinator, Lesley Goode, exhibitions manager and Roy Robertson, President of the RPS

The Exhibition in my opinion successfully and thought-provokingly explores and celebrates photography and imaging in science, it also highlights the importance that imaging plays in scientific disciplines which is often shielded and hidden from public view and it's quite amazing to learn just how important imaging is in the fields of science and research. As Dr Afzal Ansary ASIS FRPS, exhibition co-ordinator (pictured here with the exhibition in Edinburgh), says in his blurb about the exhibition "No number of words can express or indicate the information that a photograph can. Therefore scientists have always needed to communicate their discoveries by pictorial documentation in the form of photographs".

Preconceptions

I was impressed by the range of techniques used to capture images, from fibre optics to telescopes, endoscopes to stereo-microscopes, as well as the application of UV and Infra-red photography, thermography and even time lapse. The resultant images, to the lay eye, and I confess here to being of the arts persuasion, hang before you in the exhibition as works of art. Your preconception manipulates what you see, and your brain tries to find in its memory something it reminds you of. So you are tricked into thinking you're looking at kaleidoscopic space dust, impenetrable black holes, distant milky ways, laser shows, fluorescent flowers, veins in black Italian marble, fantasy planets and magical landforms. In reality you are looking at the Hippocampus of a rat (a rodent brain scan to you and me), ICE syndrome (an eye complaint) and chlamydia! Sounds horrendous? Well, actually it is, but then, as I said, it just makes you reassess your own perception of appearance, which in turn then raises questions on just how important these images are in terms of ground breaking medical and scientific research. Without the image, research can't be done, you can't see improvement or indeed see failure in order to find solutions and so advance science.

Advancing Science and Exploration

I found the exhibition concept fascinating from that point of view. I came away thinking just how lucky we all are as a global nation (for this exhibition is truly international as it features contemporary photographers and image makers from all over the world), that we have such dedicated creatives who are first and foremost scientists, who have looked for solutions medically as well as technically to advance our knowledge and understanding of medicine, the human body and yes, even space. We all grew up and are so familiar with images of stars and planets, space and the moon (whether these were black and white in the 60s or beamed images from Mars itself) that we take these for granted, and yet, without such images how could space travel and advancement actually happen? Images from space are like an intergalactic roadmap, showing us the birth of stars and the rush of Haley's comet.

Favourite Images

There is a most stunning image in this exhibition of "Startrails above Everest" by Babak Tafreshi, which for me is one of the best images as it combines my love of mountains with stars and the awesome nature of space.

With this in mind, it's worth noting that by no means are these all images of a medical nature, and the almost skeletal image of the "Hyacinth growth sequence" by Hugh Turvey is so delicate and emotive that the way it's been captured through x-ray, whites-out and exposes the bulb of the flower, the flesh of the stem and the network of root hair, so much so that it looks naked and vulnerable. It's quite something.

Other images are Syred and Power's image which is an amazing mass of purple, crimson and mauve spherical elements. It is actually "Memory Foam" which has given me a whole new perspective on my mattress at home!

There's also Martin Oeggerli's "Looking at the World through Different Eyes", and what I thought was a close up of a pineapple, was in fact the eye of a Fruit Fly!

A most gorgeous Bark Scorpion has been captured in UV fluorescence by Charles Hedgcock and would make a stunning image for a poster, GBEye or Pyramid Posters would go wild to have it Im sure! It seems to luxuriate in its luminescent avocado green on a rocky background of amethyst.

Dates

If you get a chance to view the exhibition which has now moved to Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival (untl 15 April 2012) and also at the Royal Albert Hall (public viewing 24 and 25 March), do try.

You can view the images online at http://www.rps.org/international-images-for-science if you can't get there.

 

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