A neglected medium for engineering communication: the continuing role of still photography

11 Jul 19 ARH away tiny
Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes writes: Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the Public Awareness of Research Infrastructure (PARI) conference, hosted by the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Harwell Campus, UK.

It was the best event that I’ve attended in the area of science communication and public engagement. There was the opportunity to learn from people who had run impressive campaigns and projects, often dealing with major stories.

17 Jul 19 1200px-Prototype_kilogram_replica
Replica of the prototype of the kilogram at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Paris. The image, by Japs 88, is generously licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 

For example, Fiona Auty (National Physics Lab) gave an account of her communications work concerning the redefinition of the kilogram. And Professor John McGeehan (Portsmouth University) spoke about public engagement regarding his research into plastic-eating enzymes.

After the conference I reviewed the notes that I’d compiled over the three days. The point that struck me most forcibly was how many of the presenters, when asked for top tips, had said something along the lines of

“Don’t overlook the potential of still photography”

They were, I think, seeking to correct a growing impression that still photography has become outdated — that the moving image (only) is where it’s at now.

Several of the presenters evidenced the way that still images had proved valuable in their campaigns.

The distinctive role of still images is the ability not only to capture but also to focus the reader’s or viewer’s attention. They have the capacity to become icons. And, of course, still photography remains a relatively affordable option for communicators of engineering working on restrictive budgets.


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