Berenice Abbott

Photographer Berenice Abbott’s experiments with scientific imagery began in 1939 and culminated in her providing the pictures for a series of physics textbooks published by the Physical Science Study Project at MIT in 1958

Ninety-three of these images feature in Documenting Science, a new book from Steidl. Each photograph demonstrates a scientific principle – of motion, light, or electricity – in action. The fine line between art and science is evident in many of the images, including Abbott’s surrealist depiction of a parabolic mirror, shown right, where several small pieces of glass are fixed to a convex core. The image, Abbott later recalled, was “one of the most difficult photographs I ever took” and despite the striking subject matter she worked hardest to include one of the “homely little devices” the scientists created for her set ups, in this case the base of the stand.

Steidl; £50. steidlville.com. An essay from Documenting Science is available to read on the CR iPad app, with a larger selection of images taken from the book. The app is available here: crmag.co.uk/IOL4bW

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