Photography: A fresh look at science

The winning image

The 457 entries submitted to the third SNSF Scientific Image Competition jury are online. They offer a behind-the-scenes look at research through stunning images and intriguing videos. The international jury awarded prizes to 15 entries that will be exhibited at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography.

Now in its third edition, the SNSF Scientific Image Competition has collected more than 1200 photographs and videos taken by researchers working in Switzerland. These documents offer a fresh look at the practice of research.

An international jury representing the worlds of art, museums and science selected a winning entry in each of the four categories and awarded 11 distinctions. Nine women and five men were recognised, including one professor for two different entries. The four winners are all young researchers working towards their PhDs.

The winners

First prize in the “Object of study” category went to an astonishing view of the human brain. According to the jury, the photograph taken by Kevin Akeret, a PhD candidate at University Hospital Zurich, “demystifies the neurosciences by depicting the seat of our thoughts and our emotions in a very tangible way”.

The winning photograph in the “Women and men of science” category is of a face so focused on a manuscript that the expression is nearly one of pain. Taken by Isabela Stoian, a PhD candidate at the University of Fribourg, the photograph exemplifies the challenges faced by researchers every day, and reminds us that thinking is at the heart of their work.

While working on her PhD at the University of Zurich, Katrin Kaufmann went to see a historian of Islamic art in Saint Petersburg. A photograph of his apartment won Kaufmann first prize in the “Locations and instruments” category. The jury wrote: “Science is frequently perceived as a globalised phenomenon, but we often forget its cultural context and how inextricably linked it is to the specific place in which it is done.”

First prize in the “Videos” category went to Ali Amini, a PhD candidate at EPFL, for his short film depicting a gas jet in a liquid. According to the jury, the film betrays a “turbulent dramaturgy” which, like the stream, has a clear direction.

“Our competition serves as a bridge between the academic world and the public”, says Matthias Egger, president of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation. “It also gives a very varied and realistic image of science. I’m thrilled that the four top prizes went to researchers at the start of their careers; it shows the vitality of this generation of academics in Switzerland.”

DJs setting science to music

The winning pictures and other selected entries will be exhibited at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography from 10 May to 2 June 2019. During the opening of the exhibition, a projection of the video entries of the past three years will be accompanied by three artists playing pieces composed especially for the occasion. The performance is the brainchild of Witold Langlois, journalist and founder of the musical webmedia site Meteo. “This unique project will give the images a second life by adding a musical dimension”, says Sarah Girard, director of the exhibition”. A second performance will be presented during the Night of the Images at the Musée de l’Elysée at Lausanne on 22 June 2019. Further exhibitions are planned for Swissnex Boston (United States) as well as during the Zurich Film Festival.

All the entries are available to the public and the media for non-commercial purposes as long as the author is attributed (Creative Commons licence).

For the public and the media

The media are invited to attend the awards ceremony on 15 May 2019 at 17:00, Halle Dispo, Docteur Schneider-Strasse 3, 2560 Nidau (registration atcom@snf.chExternal Link Icon).

The SNSF Scientific Image Competition exhibition will be part of a guided tour during the press conference at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography on 9 May 2019 (registration atpresse@jouph.chExternal Link Icon).

Eclectic jury

The international jury for the SNSF Scientific Image Competition comprises experts from the fields of photography, museums, media and research. The jury is chaired by Pascal Hufschmid of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne.

  • Andrea Gentile, journalist, (Italy)
  • Martina Griesse, head of collections, Technisches Museum Wien (Austria)
  • Jens Hauser, curator and researcher, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Irène Hediger, head of the artists-in-labs program, Zurich University of the Arts (Switzerland)
  • Pascal Hufschmid, head of external affairs, Musée de l’Elysée (Switzerland)
  • Marcus Maeder, researcher, Zurich University of the Arts, ETH Zurich (Switzerland)