Photographer crosses globe to capture art of high-energy physics
From ATLAS to Antarctica, photographer Stanley Greenberg has travelled the world in a high-energy treasure hunt for the shapes of physics. In a book of photographs to be published next year, Greenberg will show the results of his five-year photography tour of detectors and accelerators across the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Japan and Antarctica.
The book’s title, “Time Machines,” refers to the experiments’ efforts to recreate the period just after the big bang. Yet the photos themselves create something of a time warp effect: the most high-tech equipment in the world shot on black and white film.
Greenberg, who has already published two photography books on New York City’s infrastructure and architecture under construction around the country, was impressed by the structural forms and large spaces that comprise detectors.
“It’s an extra feature that there’s all this incredible research going on,” he said.
A self-described science nerd, Greenberg became interested in the LHC when it was under construction in 2005 and contacted a Columbia University physicist to ask about photographing it. She put him in touch with some of her colleagues at CERN and from other laboratories, all of whom were happy to open their doors to Greenberg. Grants from the Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation allowed him to travel wherever he wanted among the world’s high-energy physics experiments.
“I started to live and breathe physics for a while,” Greenberg said. “When it quickly becomes an obsession, you know that you’re going to stick with it.”
His network quickly expanded as each physicist referred him to friends at other collaborations. Eventually, physicists he’d never even heard of emailed him, asking when he was coming to photograph their experiments. Their openness, he said, was a “welcome change” from his previous projects photographing NYC’s underground where getting access to the structures was difficult, if not impossible.
The teamwork that exists in high-energy physics collaborations, Greenberg said, was one of the most interesting things about the project.
“It’s such a perfect model for so many other things,” he said. “People from 15 different countries can work on one project and get along.”
Their hospitality allowed him many unique views for his shots and experiences such as climbing around inside the LHC’s ATLAS and ALICE experiments while they were still under construction.
“Even getting to some of these places was amazing,” he said. “At SNOLAB, first you’re dressed like a miner, then you’re dressed like a lab technician, then you get dropped a few hundred feet by a rope. It’s not the kind of thing you forget too quickly.”
Nor was the richness of the assortment of remote locales lost on Greenberg.
“I like to go to places where you’re the only one that’s there,” he said. “I’ve been to the bottom of a mine, inside a mountain, to the edge of the world.”
To learn more about “Time Machines” and view Greenberg’s previous work, visit www.stanleygreenberg.net.
To see more photos from "Time Machines," click on the thumbnail images below.