Photograph by Dave Yoder
Photograph by Michael Brown
Birthplace: Goshen, Indiana
Current Home: Milan, Italy
What work will you accomplish with the grant from National Geographic?
I will be photographing the creation of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, the largest ever astronomical project, in the rarified air of the high Chilean desert. Sixty-six huge antennas will be networked together, embodying a leap forward in observing power virtually without precedent in astronomy. I'm attracted to this herculean scientific effort to essentially peer back in time to understand where we all come from, what we are made of.
What project will you work on next?
I am in the earliest stages of starting a documentary on whistleblowers and the False Claims Act, the law that supports whistleblowers when they decide to upend their lives in the interest of exposing fraud against the government or other entities.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had a lot of animals around me while growing up in Tanzania, and I did want to do something with African wildlife. Zoology, perhaps.
How did you get started in the field?
I studied photojournalism at Indiana University and after a couple of stints at newspapers, I moved to Italy and began freelancing.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to photography?
My subject being photography, I am drawn to it for being simultaneously technically and aesthetically challenging. In some ways it's like studying a traditional martial art—it takes years of practice and training to forget the camera and be in the right place mentally to capture a moment or a sense of place. I think it is probably the least judgmental of the various journalistic media, another aspect I appreciate.
What's a normal day like for you?
Considering the broad range of topics around every corner, and how important it is to come up with my own projects and keep evolving, there should be no "normal" days. If I have one, it usually means I was slacking.
Do you have a hero?
I have a few. Joseph Conrad, for his treatise on the nature of art, and Marie Curie, for never giving up. They are a couple who immediately come to mind.
What has been your favorite experience in the field? The most challenging?
There are too many to fairly judge. But the most memorable, and weirdest, was partnering with a physicist from Argonne National Laboratory to build a gamma-camera to try to find a lost Leonardo painting in Florence.
What are your other passions?
Rugby and sushi. Not always in that order.
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In Their Words
In some ways it's like studying a traditional martial art—it takes years of practice and training to forget the camera and be in the right place mentally to capture a moment or a sense of place.
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