Tamara Dean’s images of scientists in the field show their work in a new, ‘heroic’ light, busting stereotypes along the way.

Mike Manefield

Toxin terminators: (Front) Mike Manefield, Matthew Lee and Robert Barnes – Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. Image: Image: ©Tamara Dean

Tamara Dean’s images of scientists in the field show their work in a new, ‘heroic’ light, busting stereotypes along the way.

The unique series, which was commissioned as part of Dean’s UNSW Artist in Residency, takes scientists out of the lab and into the elements.

“I relished the opportunity to do Wild Researchers as it brings together my two loves – nature and art making,” Dean said.

“It was a fantastic experience to go into the landscape with the researchers to capture them in their element."

Tamara Dean

Photographer Tamara Dean speaking at the launch of the Wild Researchers exhibition on Wednesday. Photo: Tim Levy

Most of the academics featured in the portraits, currently being exhibited at the Australian Museum, are working in scientific areas – from mathematics and astronomy to climate change and biotechnology – along with a landscape architect and a philosopher.

“We are very pleased to host Wild Researchers and work with the University to bring together art and science with these striking portraits. The stunning images take us outside the lab and into diverse landscapes such as Sydney Harbour, toxic industrial sites, caves, national parks and even the heavens above,” said the Australian Museum’s CEO, Kim McKay AO.

Duane Hamacher

UNSW astronomer Duane Hamacher, from the Indigenous Astronomy Group, shared his experience about sitting still for 45 minutes while Tamara Dean captured his dramatic portrait in the Royal National Park, showing the “emu in the sky”. Photo: Tim Levy

Jennie Lang, UNSW’s Vice-President, Advancement, told the audience the exhibition “challenges stereotypes about what researchers do and how they work. It puts people front and centre of the university and showcases the amazing diversity of the important research underway.”

“I love the name of this exhibition. To me Wild Researchers perfectly captures the essence of what this project conveys. All of the people captured in these images are undertaking important work, they’re seeking to find answers to some of our biggest challenges such as climate change, endangered species and the health of our environment,” Ms Lang said.

Group wild researchers

UNSW researchers featured in the exhibition with photographer Tamara Dean. Photo: Tim Levy

PhD student and biologist Hayley Bates is one 17 researchers featured in the series. Bates’ image – The Possum Whisperer – captures her at Kosciuszko National Park where she works to protect the endangered mountain pygmy possum.

As Dean told The Sydney Morning Herald: "Seeing [Hayley] come alive in her environment was a special thing. She spends a lot of time out in this incredibly rugged and beautiful and wild landscape and she just glides across it like carpet whereas I'm trudging along behind!"


"Seen through Tamara Dean’s distinctive frame, with its painterly quality, Wild Researchers captures our academics in a new, heroic way," says Director of Media at UNSW, Denise Knight, who conceived and commissioned the series.

Producer Fran Strachan said: “Working with a photographer of Tamara’s calibre, helping to select the researchers and the locations, and seeing the months of work culminate in an exhibition that reveals the normally unseen aspects of academic research, was a rare privilege.

“Thank you to all the researchers involved for their enthusiasm, time and patience.”

An initiative of the UNSW Media Office, the exhibition also features an essay by journalist and author Ashley Hay – The Fieldwork of Looking and Seeing.

Wild Researchers is at the Australian Museum until 13 December. It will be exhibited on campus in early 2016. See all the images, video and read Ashley Hay’s full essay in the catalogue.


Marine mathematicians – Nina Ribbat, Paulina Cetina-Heredia and Amandine Schaeffer. Image: ©Tamara Dean