Picturing Meteorologists at Work
I’ve been browsing images of meteorologists at work while prepping an exhibit module related to the labor history of transportation. (It’ll be online in November, pending peer review.) I’ve discovered that meteorological labor is mostly people pointing at things.
Like this picture of TV weatherman Harold Taft in 1954:
Or this 1950 advertisement touting the meteorologists who work for American Airlines:
Meteorologists can team up to point at different things at the same time:
This observation got some laughs when I shared it over Twitter, but my STS colleague Jen Henderson recognized its significance. Pointing is part of communicating, and communication is an essential component of scientific and educational labor.
The audience for scientific communication is often missing from images of meteorologists at work, in part because it’s usually distant from the site of meteorological production. But if we forget that audience, those users, we’re missing one of the key elements that makes meteorology important for the world.
Of course, pointing isn’t the only way to show meteorologists at work. There are visually engaging ways to depict them working with data, like this image shared by climatologist Deke Arndt, from the archives of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC.
An echo of this image was playfully distorted by an Australian photographer to illustrate the electronic storage of weather records.
There are also interesting genres of pictures of people taking meteorological observations, but I’m going to save those for another post.
Instead, let’s wrap up with the great challenge for a photographer: make an interesting image of a theorist at work.
Impossible? The clever photographer can find a way. Here’s my one of all-time favorite pictures: