Inventing The Future Part II – The Features

Earlier this year we received a call from across the Atlantic Ocean. The editors at Wired UK magazine had an incredibly ambitious project ahead of them that they asked us to be a part of: one week, four photographers, over thirty photo-shoots, and a triple gate-fold cover featuring sixteen of the brightest and most inspiring minds in the world at the MIT Media Lab. How could we say no?

This project for the November issue of Wired UK was one of the most interesting editorial assignments we’ve ever been a part of, and we’re going behind the scenes for you in series of posts here on the blog, starting with the cover, and now onto the feature articles we photographed. We’re going in-depth with photos and stories from the features we shot. Make sure to keep reading – as with everything we encountered at the MIT Media lab, these photo shoots contain much more than meets the eye…

Open University

Once we arrived, we jumped right into the assignment with our first portrait subject being none other than Joi Ito, the visionary directory of the MIT Media Lab. A former venture capitalist, angel investor, CEO of the Creative Commons, and nightclub DJ, Ito has ambitions plans for the future of the lab. Despite these ambitions plans and an incredibly full schedule, he was generous, giving us plenty of time to photograph him both for the cover of the issue and for the feature inside of the magazine.

We were also fortunate enough to meet and photograph Nicholas Negroponte, who not only founded the Media Lab back in 1985, but is responsible for helping to start Wired magazine and the One Laptop Per Child project. You can read the full story on Ito, Negroponte, and the future of the Media Lab in Wired UK’s November issue.

Giant Steps

Later in the week we photographed Hugh Herr, the engineer, biophysicist, double amputee, and head of the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab.

Herr’s pioneering research into this field is a direct result of his personal life. Growing up as an avid climber as a child, he was caught in a blizzard while climbing and lost both legs to frostbite. In order to continue pursuing his passion of climbing he invented, developed and built his own prostheses that had previously never existed.

Knowing Herr’s back-story and knowing that we would be photographing him with his legs exposed – we knew we needed an equally futuristic space for the shoot. The top floor of the Media Lab provided just that; a simple and modern space that would help to highlight the integration of man and machine.

Hugh and our art director Andrew look over the shots for the opener with Chris. Our time with Herr was short, he was flying to London the same afternoon to watch the South African Runner, Oscar Pistorius become the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics – running on prosthesis that Hugh Herr worked to develop.

Seeing the Light

Our third feature shoot was with neuroscientist and neuro-engineer Ed Boyden. As the head of the Synthetic Neurobiology group at MIT, he is literally on a self-described quest to “solve the brain.”

This is certainly no small task, and Boyden is co-credited with inventing the science behind it; optogenetics. I am absolutely no scientist but as far as I learned from him, this is the technology and science of observing and controlling the brain with light.

Thanks to ridiculously smart minds like Ed’s, we walked away from all of our shoots feeling enlightened. I can’t say that we understood everything that we learned that week, but it was incredible to be a part of it all and to try and capture the spirit and energy of the place. The Media Lab is truly a unique place, both in intellect and in spirit.

Unfortunately though, no lasers were used in the making of our shots with Ed Boyden or any of the features that week.

14 replies to “Inventing The Future Part II – The Features”

  1. It must be an incredibly humbling experience to be in the presence of such brilliant minds. I read about inspiring folks such as these and it reminds me of how important it is to realize one’s potential.

  2. Photographing science without resorting to blue gels, awesome work Chris!

    Can I possibly ask what tripod & ball head Chris is rocking here? My current ball head isn’t rock solid with my 5D & 24-70 L.

  3. I enjoyed and agree with Adam’s comment above. This shoot would definitely NOT have been Chris Chrisman with blue gels…:-)

    Great job Robert…and Chris!!

  4. Hey Guys! great pics as always!
    what size octabox do you guys use for your two light portraits? 35″? 47″?

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