Inspired minds: curiosity and imagination in science

To celebrate the creativity of the scientists working at NIWA in Hamilton, David Roper and Stephanie Parkyn have created a series of unconventional portraits: large-format photographs based on the imaginative spark behind each scientist’s work.

The images on these two pages and on the covers of this magazine were first revealed in an exhibition at the University of Waikato; ultimately, they will hang in the corridors at NIWA. Here’s how the photographer and his creative consultant described the works.

"This collection of images captures the inspirations of 15 leading scientists dedicated to understanding the natural world. From benthic slimes to tidal cycles, it celebrates the intersection of art and science, where both processes require creativity, originality, curiosity, and a spark of inspiration.

"Art and science can both be ways of investigating the world around us, making sense of our place in it and our effect upon it. An integral part of the research process is communicating knowledge, and this is where art and science meet: both artist and scientist need to show the world what they have found.

"Our challenge for this exhibition was to distil the essence of each scientist’s individual inspiration, taken from personal interviews, into a photographic image. Our aim was to capture not just a picture of what they study, but their ideas, motivations, and what excites them about following a career in science. Their fields of expertise lie largely within marine and freshwater science and traverse the disciplines of biology, ecology, geology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. They are all Principal Scientists at NIWA in Hamilton.

"We hope that each of these images stimulates you to wonder in the way that our scientists have. How does it work? What causes that to happen? Ask yourself why, then why, and why again."

'The Story of the Earth’ for Dr Terry Hume

'River Facets’ for Dr John Quinn

'Fluid Boundaries’ for Dr Kit Rutherford

'Mathematical Motion’ for Dr Malcolm Green

'Form and Function’ for Dr David Rowe

'ηπ (eta pi)’ for Graham McBride

'Patterns’ for Dr John Leathwick

'Waikato Watercolour’ for Dr Rob Davies-Colley

'Thermos’ for Dr Chris Hickey

'What Lies Beneath’ for Paul Champion

'The Scale of It’ for Dr Simon Thrush

Nitella claytonii ’ for Dr John Clayton

'Sine Wave’ for Dr Rob Bell

'Catching the Air’ for Dr Bob Wilcock.

Dr David Roper, Photographer
Dr Stephanie Parkyn, Creative Consultant