BJP, Features, Science

Trial and Error: Daniel Stier shoots the art of the experiment

Fascinated by the strange environments typical of pure scientific research, Stier set about investigating the idea of the experiment as an art form

In one of the essays for Daniel Stier’s book, Ways of Knowing, Pedro Ferreira, professor of astrophysics at Oxford University, describes the scientific process in a surprising way. “I found experimental work to be a different way of doing, unlike art or theory, yet, in some ways, much more organic, irrational and intuitive.” We are accustomed to making firm, simplistic divisions between the creative freewheeling art world and the disciplined, empirical structures of science. And yet here is an Oxford don extolling virtues not commonly associated with the science of our imagination – organic, irrational, intuitive.

It’s precisely this apparent contradiction that attracted Stier, whose book consists of two projects exploring his fascination with the experiment as an art form.

“I FOUND EXPERIMENTAL WORK TO BE A DIFFERENT WAY OF DOING, UNLIKE ART OR THEORY, YET, IN SOME WAYS, MUCH MORE ORGANIC, IRRATIONAL AND INTUITIVE.”

 

Eight years ago the London-based photographer happened across an image of
an experiment involving a human subject and became fascinated by the interplay between the strange environment and the unknown research project. He began making enquiries, searching out people who could help him get into the institutions where these weird and wonderful experiments were taking place. The only rules were that they should each include a person – a student, researcher or professor involved in the project – and that Stier would document what he found, rather than setting up or directing scenes. Shot across Europe and the US – from Munich to Sheffield, Zurich to Philadelphia – the 32 photographs in Volume 1 of Ways of Knowing build up a baffling picture of contemporary science.

Read the full article in our April 2016 issue – available in The BJP Shop, in the App Store and in all good newsagents.

 

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Read the full article in our April 2016 issue – available in The BJP Shop, in the App Store and in all good newsagents.