Nick Bowers: Scared Scientists

What does, or what should a scientist look like? Photographic portraits of scientists quite often fall into stereotypical categories. There are the predictable headshots, the sort of generic ID photos that pop up on websites and in professional journals. Then there are the photos of people wearing lab coats, standing in front of blackboards, and holding beakers. More animated images sometimes show scientists in the context of where they work, on top of ice sheets in the Arctic, for example, or in orbit in outer space. But for a 2014 series of portraits, Scared Scientists, the Australian photographer Nick Bowers came up with a decidedly different approach. Instead of picturing scientists in ways that underscored the objective nature of their work, Bowers asked his subjects, all accomplished and well-respected in their fields, to contemplate the implications of the findings of their work. Bowers’ goal, he said, was to capture and communicate their “humanity and vulnerability.” What resulted are striking portraits that are surprisingly moving, intense, and unique.