Guest Photographer Maya Beano
This UK-based scientist slash photographer shows us how intuition and logic collide.
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Amman, the capital city of Jordan and home to almost 50 per cent of the entire population of Jordan. I feel like a tour guide when I’m asked to describe Amman because I get all worked up and excited about it. It was originally built on seven hills, which I always considered very poetic. I grew up living in the hills only a few minutes away from my best friend. My most precious memories are of us walking to the shops to get ice lollies and lemonade then sitting in the meadows to have picnics with our neighbours. Why are you drawn to shooting landscapes and nature? I like to shoot where I feel at total peace with myself and with the world. I am quite introverted by nature and find that going out into the wilderness on my own or with a few friends is the best way to recharge.
Tell us a bit about your last trip out in nature? I visited the Swiss Alps with my brother last August and it was absolutely magical. My favourite part of our trip was the train journey from Lucerne to Interlaken. I must have used up about three rolls of film on this train [trip] alone. The skies were roaring with thunder and there were waterfalls trickling down the misty mountains that we passed through. It was all very atmospheric. After a few hours in Interlaken, the weather started drying up and a rainbow appeared just as we made our way up to the top of the Männlichen.
Where and why did you buy your first camera? When I was little I had a Kodak film camera that my mum brought back from one of her trips to the USA. My first photography subjects were my brothers. I used to get them to dress up and pull off silly poses next to our collection of toys, mainly their favourite action figures. I was also into creating ‘photo stories’ at family gatherings and showing everyone the results weeks later. I guess this sparked my interest in photography, but it wasn’t until 2009, when I was 18, that I bought my own camera and started shooting landscapes.
What kind of science research do you do in your day job?
I work in drug discovery and development. I specialised in
chemistry for my masters, but my current research project is keeping me busy learning novel biological techniques to assess the safety of potential cancer medicines.
Is there crossover between science and art for you? I think so, yes. There is a tendency for people to group science and art into distinct categories, one rational and the other emotional. To me, they have always been two sides of the same coin. Whether I’m working in the lab or out taking photos, I use my rational judgement and my gut feeling to produce meaningful results. I've never really understood the dichotomy between logic and emotion. I’m very tempted to draw a Venn diagram to illustrate what my thoughts are on this, but I think I might have to save that for another day!
Art is generally viewed as the creative discipline, but I think science can be just as creative as art. Coming up with a novel way to solve a particular scientific problem requires a lot of imagination, just like producing an original photograph does.
When did you first discover the effects of light leaks and
expired film? Discounting my childhood years, I only started using film last year. I first came across photos with light leaks when I became active on Flickr, but I didn’t have the time or the money to experiment with film while I was studying at university. I always had a little plan in my head, though, to truly go for it once I graduated. I took a year out and taught myself all the basics from scratch as I felt that, after years of having used a DSLR on automatic, I needed to brush up on my exposure controls, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. My mum gave me a 20-year-old Canon and I had some expired film from years ago, so I started to experiment with exposing the film to light to produce light leaks.
What’s the last thing you broke? Oh what is life but a continuous cycle of make and break! Seriously, though, I broke a little glass vial in the lab the other day, but it was all very anticlimactic because it only had distilled water in it.
What makes you feel all warm and fuzzy? Winter! Those days when you’re just curled up under a blanket watching your favourite movie or having a cup of tea with your loved ones. I also love watching nature time-lapses set to epic soundtracks.
What makes you angry? I don’t know about anger. It takes a lot to make me angry, but I do have a strong emotional reaction to disharmony. I realise that conflict is a natural part of life, and that it can be a force for growth and change, but at this rate, I think the world would be infinitely better without it. I greatly dislike watching the news, unless it’s happy news about baby pandas or something.
Most useful tip for photographing nature… Look out for the weather, I would say. It’s best to go out on cloudy or partly cloudy days to avoid glare. This also helps create a more dramatic mood which I prefer in landscape photos. For days with a lot of glare, invest in a simple neutral density filter. If you’re trying to introduce light leaks, experimentation is key. I like exposing my film to light from my mobile phone as opposed to daylight, but that’s purely a matter of preference.
Most useful tip for photographing people… Use film! I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about film photography that makes people look great. I think it must be a combination of the tones and the softness. Kodak Portra 400 and Fujifilm Superia 200 are both really good.
What exciting things have you got coming up? It makes me excited just thinking about this question! I’m looking into trips to Iceland and to Scandinavia with a couple of friends, so fingers crossed it all goes to plan. I will be uploading the photos I take on these trips to Flickr and to my personal photography website.