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Art and Science
Reproduction and Interpretation
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By Kai-Uwe Nielsen

Art and Science - Reproduction and Interpretation

Photography is a fantastic mean for the scientific documentation of experiments or of conditions and situations. The special requirements of this photography depends on the objective of the research. Consequently some of the established scientists are great photographers too. On the basis of their expertness they know the special needs a photograph have to provide. Vice versa they need to deal with the possibilities of photography. For an arthistorian, educated in photography, it is much more easier to shoot or to reproduce an old masterpiece of art, for example a classical roman sculpture or a baroque church since he knows what is important. He dispenses photographic effects but he can go further through interpetation by the means of photography. In consequence the photographic image becomes a part of the the research. In the age of PowerPoint presentations the image replace more and more the written word, since it seems to be easier to understand a complex issue by pictures.

It is worth to remember, that the WorldWideWeb in the beginning was designed for the scientific interchange and it was quite impossible to send big attachments like graphics or photographs. Gone are the days of slowly data lines but after all the printed book is still important. So every photograph has also to serve as a setting copy for the print. At this point of view the technique becomes very important: For a high resolution print you need a big digital camera file or a large negative or slide to get all the information on the paper. The competition between analogous photography with film versus digital photography has been won commercially by the newer medium but if you compare the high quality of information on a 8“x10“ in. colorslide with the data-files deriving from a HASSELBLAD H5D-60 you can still detect a quality difference in favor of the film-material. But to get this quality one has to drive big effort. You can twist and turn as you want the digital media are easier to handle. If you think about archiving for long terms the situation is completly different. The expenditure for keeping digital files up to date or just to read them out in future ages seems to be very difficult and therefore of all famous documents of the German history the BUNDESARCHIV keeps still a mircofiche on black/white film.

A border area of scientific photography is the documentation of the working process of scientists during their researches and experiments. It is in someway people and portrait photography, photojournalism and sillife photography all in one. To see and to photograph the creation of a synthetic diamond in the blueish light of an artificial plasma for example is breathtaking and to observe these explorers during their work belongs to the big fascination of photography.


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