Look Like Science (ongoing)

In the Hong Kong high school textbook “New 21st Century Chemistry”, Chapter 35 Alcohol, Photo 35.24 shows a man in suit lying in front of a historic building. Under the photo, the caption reads: An alcoholic sleeping in the streets.

Upon a closer look, the photos in science textbooks are less scientific than one would expect. Stock photos of everyday objects, experimental equipments shot against monochrome backgrounds, irrelevant cartoons grace the pages of physics and chemistry textbooks. The majority of them are aesthetically boring, most often they carry no scientific significance at all, instead they become relics of truth, decorations for a book. With this new found revelation, I began my research on photography and science communication.

Henry Fox Talbot once marvelled at photography’s ability surpass the limits of human vision. “The eye of the camera would see plainly where the human eye would find nothing but darkness.” He declared in his book “The Pencil of Nature”. In the decades the follows, photography and science have been inextricably intertwined. Because camera can objectively capture an imprint of nature, photographs became convincing evidence. From the photographic plate made by Henri Becquerel showing the presence of invisible radiation to the Hubble Space Telescope recording the light of galaxies 3-8 billion light years distant from our planet, countless images help us understand our physical universe.

In this project, I studied images in science communications to understand how scientific concepts are presented in images, in various forms and styles.