One of the leading photographers of the 20th century, Berenice Abbott is best-known for her scenes of Paris and New York in the 30s and 40s. But in the late 1950s, Abbott began spending time in the labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which hired her to create new photographic images for the teaching of physics.
Abbott spent two years at MIT creating photographs to document and illustrate the principles of physical science – mechanics, electromagnetism, and waves. She developed innovative techniques for capturing scientific phenomena, including one for very detailed, close-in photography that she called Super Sight.
So it is fitting that the MIT Museum chose to inaugurate its new Kurtz Gallery for Photography with an exhibit of over seventy images by Abbott taken during her time at MIT. The Show, “Berenice Abbott, Photography and Science: An Essential Unity” is at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA, through Dec. 31.
Abbott said of her work in illustrating physics, “The science made its own design. But just patterns and just beautiful design wasn’t it at all. The principle had to come through first and foremost, and that’s a hard thing to do, really.”