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Tag Archives: Buck Institute
Marin Magazine gave me a wonderful opportunity in the February issue — eight pages of photographs to illustrate the beauty of Marin County. To my surprise, the editor also chose one of the images for the cover — a grove of oak trees on a Novato hillside.
I made this photo quite by accident a year ago. I was looking for an elevated vantage point to photograph the Buck Institute’s distinctive I.M. Pei building as part of a story on Buck’s scientists. As I climbed this little hillside with my gear, the sun suddenly came out from behind some storm clouds and lit up the grass and the trees. I shot about 10 frames before the cloud cover returned. Another shot from that moment is in the photo layout.
The text I wrote to accompany the pictures is below.
Marin Views (text from magazine)
Much of my career, in photography and in journalism, has focused on people and their peccadilloes. They were rogues and rascals mostly, types you wouldn’t readily invite home for family dinner. Such was the business of news.
That changed when I began making pictures for Marin Magazine. Even though we have our share of local rapscallions, what captivated me as I ventured deeper into Marin than ever before were its various scapes—landscapes, seascapes, and, yes, bridgescapes. I was often out and about at first light or early evening, when nature presents its very best.
The beauty of this marvelous place filled me with wonder—the forested wilds of Tam, the windswept solitude of the beaches, the verdant promise of spring farmland, all of it connected, majestically, by a golden span to San Francisco.
The assignment was to create a package of photographs and text marking the 10th anniversary of the institute, whose focus is seeking treatment for diseases associated with again such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.
To the non-scientific community, the Buck is perhaps better know for it’s striking modernist building designed by I.M. Pei. For that reason, I wanted to emphasize the faces and voices of the scientists who work there as a way to demystify the institute. We selected a dozen scientists, people like Lunyak, who runs her own epigenetics lab, to junior staff scientists who spend much of their time moving fruit flies from one jar to another.
I asked them why they became scientists, what they hoped to achieve and how they see the role of science in modern society. (Answers here.) I was struck by the amount of passion in their responses. Nearly all expressed a motivation to find cures to debilitating diseases, and some told compelling personal stories about why they became a scientist.
The portraits were done over two days, with locations ranging from open labs to the fruit fly room to the Pei buildings striking interiors. All were shot with small speedlights, using two or three lights in some instances to just one in others, like this shot above.
I also made three pre-dawn visits to the Buck to photograph the exterior at first light, once in the rain. The magazine used one of those shots (see below) in the table of contents, but the opening photo, which ran across a page and three-quarters, I shot one afternoon purely by chance while on a scouting mission, confirming once again that in this business serendipity can be as important as preparation.