Still Life Photographer David Clugston Shoots the Human Brain for Wired Magazine

In my seven years of representing commercial photographers I have seen some interesting projects, but never any quite like David Clugston's recent human brain shoot for Wired Magazine. Today I was able to get the full scoop from David on what that experience was like for him. Here's a recap:

Q. Did you enjoy shooting a real human brain?

A. I did enjoy it. It was amazing to be up close to the human computer, the center of consciousness. I found it beautiful, humbling, and inspiring all at the same time.

Q. Did you find some unique challenges with this project?

A. Up until an hour before the shoot, it was unclear whether or not we would be able to photograph a fresh whole brain at all. For obvious reasons it is hard to predict when a fresh donor brain will be available. The brain arrived at the perfect moment, packed in a box of dry ice. We had to work very fast in order to document the brain before the valuable RNA that the lab was trying to preserve was lost. I had to light and shoot it in a fraction of the time that I would take to shoot a similar still life.

Q. What's an RNA?

A. It's sort of like DNA. Look it up on Wikipedia.

Q. What was cool about this shoot?

A. One of the cool things about shooting the brain was its apparent effect on the electronics of my camera. As I began to photograph the brain my shutter speed started to randomly jump from setting to setting. I wasn't totally convinced that it was not the brain that was messing with my camera. It has not happened before or since. Weird. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to see a human brain up close, an experience that very few ever have.

Q. Naturally, I have to ask. Did you find the whole project kind of gross?

A. Gross is not a word I would use. I think it was more interesting than anything else.

Q. What were your parting thoughts when you wrapped the shoot?

A. This shoot left me feeling both very fragile and very inspired by the complexity that is encased in what looks a lot like a lump of ground beef.


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