The inspiration came from a few places, but mostly it came from trying to keep our frozen margaritas from melting too fast while on a sunny Austin patio. While brainstorm sketching on printer paper as the sun beat down on our table, we propped some paper up next to our water glasses in an attempt to give the margaritas some shade. The shadows that hit the back side were beautiful, both sharp and soft, crisp and fuzzy. It reminded us of Ruth Bernhard, like if elements from her 3 pieces “Lifesavers”, “Doorknob”, and “Configuration” were all melded into one image. Although these were all captured in camera, they have the feel if of lith-prints or vintage still life photos.
We took a iPhone shot of the paper and carried it around in our heads for almost 9 months, till finally the idea crept back. So one afternoon we taped up a sheet of printer paper, and spent time making shadows…and margaritas of course.
And here’s the picture from that day on the patio.
A couple years ago, while on assignment, we were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Ashish D Deshpande, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. We were photographing robots from his lab for a story in The Alcalde Magazine. ** SIDE NOTE: If you ever get the chance to hang out with engineering students for a day, take it! They will blow your mind.**
Fast forward to Summer 2015, and we get an email from Dr. Deshpande. He has a new robot and is wondering if we would like to photograph it. Ummm… heck yeah!
Harmony came to our studio for a day. We shot both stills and video of this amazing invention. We have plans for a longer video with an interview of Dr Deshpande worked in, but for now, please enjoy our short of this phenomenal robot.
As we have shared before, we have a bee hive in the back yard that Adam keeps. It has been an interesting experience to watch them thrive, grow, swarm, hive split, regrow and when the bees get old, eventually die. The lifespan of a worker bee in the summer months is as short as a few weeks.
In late August and September we start to find dead and dying bees around the porch. Most the time they are missing a wing but this little lady made it to our back door before she passed and we were luck enough to spot her before a dog or bird did.
Adam spent an afternoon exploring her with light and the results are beautiful.
A while back, we rented a Phantom high speed camera for a commercial job doing splashes and pours. We decided to keep it one more day and explore its capabilities. After a day of setting off rolls of firecrackers we had some annoyed neighbors and really fun raw footage.
In the name of exploration, the video has been edited two different ways. We love both version and it was fun for us to see the different ways Curtis and Gustavo interpreted and worked with the raw footage.
We are proud and excited that a day of experimenting in the studio could yield such a beautiful finished product.
Last Fall, Black Rainbow asked if we had any image to contribute for their upcoming Tennis issue. Adam had shot a collection of unique/historical raquets a few years back, so that seemed appropriate, but they wanted a little more. So we asked the two members of our family who truly love tennis balls, Lefty and Lucy, to help out.
As mentioned in the World Wildlife Fund: Food Issue post, Adam has been a beekeeper for about 2 years. Bringing a full frame into the studio has been a want of his from the beginning. This job gave him a reason to spend time making the observation/transport box.
One Sunday afternoon this past spring he pulled a frame from the hive and inserted it into the wood and plexiglass case he built. There were maybe a hundred or so bees that had stayed on the frame. After a few hours, we noticed there were more bees than we had started with in the box. He had pulled a frame packed full of brood. As time wore on more and more bees hatched. By the time we put the frame back in the hive, there were over a thousand bees in the case.
Driving around with a thousand irritable bees in your passenger seat can make the mellowest of people a little nervous.
You can see the larva growing in the individual cells
Here’s the box Adam made. There is plexiglass on both sides so he can back light the frame.
Today the White House announced its goal to fund Brain Research, in hopes of furthering understanding of brain disorders and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Two years ago Scientific American magazine sent me to the University of Texas at Austin to borrow a human brain. They needed me to photograph a normal, adult, non-dissected brain that the university had obtained by trading a syphilitic lung with another institution. The specimen was waiting for me, but before I left they asked if I’d like to see their collection.
I walked into a storage closet filled with approximately one-hundred human brains, none of them normal, taken from patients at the Texas State Mental Hospital. The brains sat in large jars of fluid, each labeled with a date of death or autopsy, a brief description in Latin, and a case number. These case numbers corresponded to micro film held by the State Hospital detailing medical histories. But somehow, regardless of how amazing and fascinating this collection was, it had been largely untouched, and unstudied for nearly three decades.
Driving back to my studio with a brain snugly belted into the passenger seat, I quickly became obsessed with the idea of photographing the collection, preserving the already decaying brains, and corresponding the images to their medical histories. I met with my friend Alex Hannaford, a features journalist, to help me find the collection’s history dating back to the 1950s.
Over the past year while working this idea into a book, we’ve learned how heavily storied the collection is. That it was originally intended to be displayed and studied, but without funding it instead stagnated. And that the microfilm histories of each brain had been destroyed years ago.
My original vision of a photo book accompanied by medical data and a comprehensive essay turned into a story of loss and neglect. But Alex continued to pursue some scientific hope for the collection. After discussions with various neuroscientists we learned that through MRI technology and special techniques in DNA scanning there is still hope. And with the new possibilities of federal brain research funding, this collection’s secrets may yet be unlocked.
As we begin the hunt for someone to publish my 230 images accompanied by Alex’s 14,000 word essay, the University has found new interest in the collection. They currently are planning to make MRI scans of the brains.
Below are a few samples from the much larger body of work.