Myriad visions of research

© SNF / Gewinnende des Wettbewerbs

The 18 prize-winning photos and videos in the SNSF Scientific Image Competition 2024 offer myriad innovative visions of contemporary science, shedding light on the invisible world that surrounds us.

The winning images include a photomontage revealing the hidden things around us, a video showing the delicate beauty of the vascular system in the brain, a geologist mapping the imposing contours of a cave or the strangely symmetrical chaos of an auditory experience. The 18 winning photos and videos will be exhibited at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography from 3 to 26 May 2024.

The four first prizes

First prize in the “Object of study” category went to Martin Stollenwerk, a scientific collaborator at the Swiss Institute for Art Research, for his composite image of the interior of a building. It combines colour with black and white, the present with the past and the visible with the invisible. The jury highlighted its “familiarity, destabilised by the intrusion of a foreign element” and the way it reveals “in a transparent and immediate way what lies below the surface” of the walls that surround us.

A portrait of a caver deep inside a cave with “perfect framing, composition and lighting” took first prize in the “Women and men of science” category. The photograph was taken by Tanguy Racine, a postdoctoral researcher in hydrogeology at the University of Neuchâtel. “Photographs like this are a way of letting people explore as yet unknown underground landscapes”, the scientist explains. “Using headlamps and flash guns provides a way of recreating the very special, heavily contrasting light conditions found in caves”.

Jonas Müller, a PhD student in geophysics at ETH Zurich, received first prize in the “Locations and instruments” category for his picture of a complex experimental set-up built to study acoustic cloning. The jury was swayed by the symmetrical composition of the image which “oscillates between purpose, control and order on the one hand and chaos, improvisation and DIY on the other”. “What I like about this picture is that it simultaneously illustrates the complexity of the experiment and the elegance of the results”, says Jonas Müller.

The winning entry in the “Video loops” category is a reconstruction of the vascular system in the brain driven by an algorithm that combines microscope images. It was created by Christopher Hahne, a postdoctoral researcher in medical imaging at the University of Bern. According to the jury it “captures our attention with patterns that seem universal but are at first hard to pinpoint” while still “providing a complete story”.

And 14 distinctions

The international jury also awarded distinctions to fourteen entries that underline the “haunting beauty” of bone structure, provide visual testimony to the damage caused by flooding, offer an abstract view of a glacier campsite or immerse us in the world of a monkey in its natural habitat.

Since 2017, the Swiss National Science Foundation has been inviting researchers working in Switzerland and Liechtenstein to share images of their everyday life as scientists with the public. The 408 photos and videos submitted this year will be added to a collection of more than 3,000 that is freely accessible on the Internet.

The 2024 jury

Chair: Alexander Sauer, photographer (Switzerland)


  • Emanuela Ascoli, head of photography and events at National Geographic France
  • Tanja Gesell, biologist and artist, University of Vienna (Austria)
  • Emmanuelle Giacometti, director of the Espace des Inventions (Switzerland)
  • Patrick Gyger, director of Plateforme 10 (Switzerland)