Celebrating 100 Years
Chip Clark: Museum Photographer for More Than Thirty-Five Years
Chip Clark came to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in 1973, with a degree in biology and an interest in photography. He has been a photographer on staff ever since, documenting thousands of specimens and exhibits, and accompanying scientists on research trips around the world. He has photographed everything from dinosaurs and mummies to diamonds, butterflies, and, of course, his fellow staff members. In the field he has photographed in caves in Jamaica, the rainforest in Peru, the coral reefs in Belize, and on the ocean floor in a deep-sea submersible off the Bahamas. He thrives on the challenges of photographing the natural world in its environment, no matter what the conditions. (Use the player on the right to listen to Clark talk about working with scientists in the field.)
Over the course of his decades at the Smithsonian, the process of photography has changed a great deal. In 1973 he was working with an all-manual Canon camera, developing Kodachrome color slide film and Ilford black and white film that he processed and printed himself, in a dark room that was once part of the exhibits graphics shop, on the floor below the Mammal Hall; today it's all digital, using Canon cameras “with an amazing arsenal of spectacular lenses.” His work includes macro photography—the photographing of close-up details, such as this slice of a single crystal of liddicoatite; infra-red and ultra-violet imaging, such as this wild strawberry blossom, seen in visible and ultra-violet light (which shows how an insect would see it); high-speed and time-lapse cinematography, such as this high-speed sequence of a katydid in flight; and much more. (Use the player on the right to listen to Clark discuss how photography has changed over his career.)
In 1998, in celebration of Clark's quarter-century with the Museum, the Smithsonian organized an exhibit of his photographs. The show included this picture of Charley Potter, a scientist with the Museum, clinging to a stranded sperm whale during a violent storm. (Use the player on the right to listen to Clark talk about what it's like to work at the Smithsonian.)
Chip Clark died on June 12, 2010. We remember him fondly.
These photographs are only a small sampling of Chip Clark’s work documenting the life of the National Museum of Natural History. Many more examples of his work can be found in the Centennial exhibit, and in these books.
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