Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, April 2, 1999  |  Number 7
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

TheArt of Blackboard Scribbling

Over the course of several months in 1997 and 1998, photographer Jean Therrien-Gottschalk took pictures of Fermilab astrophysicist Lam Hui’s blackboard, creating a series of four compositions titled according to the day on which the blackboard was photographed. Each is composed of multiple views of Hui’s blackboard, laid out in a grid pattern. Together they depict the process, not just the final product, of research, representing visually and aesthetically the unfolding of scientific ideas.

Says Therrien-Gottschalk of her work: "The erasures and corrections [on the blackboard] show the evolution of ideas and thoughts represented by mathematical symbols and sketches. Photography has been used to document scientific subjects since its inception, and my work has aspects of a documentary approach. However, I am also striving to use photography to elucidate a more conceptual representation of scientific process. For example, the blackboard is photographed in its entirety, including all symbols and sketches. I take the liberty to group the subject matter by photographing the blackboard in segments with overlapping content, and I present the work as individual building blocks depicting the entire subject. My goal is to engage the viewer in the scientific process by showing subject matter that is identifiable…, yet encourages exploration and discovery."

Hui was thrilled to see his "scribbles transported in space and time onto [Therrien-Gottschalk’s] photos." He said it gave his "work a depth that I didn’t appreciate before. It was interesting and a pleasure to see how my daily struggle on the chalk board evolved with time."



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