harvard colloquy magazine

Posted on: September 26th, 2016 by Ben Gebo | No Comments

Photography is a balance of exploration and trusting your gut. I try to keep the amount of people on set small. When possible, it’s my subject, assistant and myself. The more photo gear and people involved can make anyone in front of the camera timid. I shot the majority of these with one light and a reflector. “Don’t overthink this!” is what I say to myself.

For my last job shooting for Harvard’s Colloquy magazine, I was asked to photograph PhD Candidates for various articles. I shot all over the campus as well as outside of it. Like most editorial photography jobs, I’m not given an abundance of time to make away with a successful portrait. Too much of anything isn’t good, including time. My approach to photography is minimalism. Restraints enable creativity.

Vinidhra Mani at MGH Charlestown. We took many pictures in her lab space, but ended up loving the warmth of the lobby. We had about three minutes before we got shut down there and had to finish shooting in her lab. This was the first picture I took of Vini and it turned out to be the editor’s favorite!

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Chris Faes at the Center for Astrophysics. We shot a bunch of photos at The Great Refractor, which was the largest telescope in the world for twenty years when it was built in 1857. While it was fun shooting in an area so rich with history, we ended up going with a shot of Chris in front of a digital representation of the sun’s color spectrum.

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Me at work. Photo courtesy of my assistant Justin Hamel.
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Julianne VanWagenen at the Dudley House Library. It was a rainy day, so shooting outside wasn’t ideal. I’ve shot inside this library more than anywhere else on Harvard’s campus. It was tricky relying on whispers and tiptoeing around students working, but I feel it aided in bringing a level of tranquility.
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Erin Fletcher in Harvard Square. This was biggest logistical nightmare of all the shoots for this issue. The shot called for a lot of motion with plenty of header space for text. It was raining and we attempted to shoot this in the street right in the square. We had about twenty seconds per take due to the length of the crosswalk signal. Inevitably, it didn’t work. Once we admitted defeat, we found a spot on the sidewalk that gave us what we needed.
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Tee Arichiaryet in the Zhou lab of the Sherman Fairchild building. Tee was a pleasure to photograph. He gave me plenty of time to work and had some good ideas for locations. We shot in about four spots, but ended up going with the close-up of him outside the building. I couldn’t help but capturing him in his lab space.
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Phoebe DeVries at the Natural History Museum. We took many photos in the museum itself, but found shooting with the maps was more successful. I was a cartographer in another life, so this backdrop really spoke to me visually. The map had tectonic features, which made the colors painterly and wonderful.
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I initially shot Adam Anderson in 2014 when he was chosen as a Harvard Horizons scholar. I think we spent more time talking about ancient Mesopotamia than we did taking pictures. Friendly, cool dude.
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You can view the the Spring issue of Colloquy here.