Picturing Meteorologists at Work

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: 

 Harold Taft presents a television weather report, 1954. Image printed in the  Fort Worth Star-Telegram , Sept 29, 1991, Section E, page 8. (Scanned and posted online  here .)

Harold Taft presents a television weather report, 1954. Image printed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept 29, 1991, Section E, page 8. (Scanned and posted online here.)

Or this 1950 advertisement touting the meteorologists who work for American Airlines:

 “They Find Your Flagship’s Place in the Sun!” Advertisement for American Airlines, probably published in  Life Magazine , 1950. Scanned from a copy in Roger Turner’s personal collection.

“They Find Your Flagship’s Place in the Sun!” Advertisement for American Airlines, probably published in Life Magazine, 1950. Scanned from a copy in Roger Turner’s personal collection.

Meteorologists can team up to point at different things at the same time:

 Unidentified women meteorologists plot an upper air chart, c. 1944.  NOAA Photo Library

Unidentified women meteorologists plot an upper air chart, c. 1944. NOAA Photo Library

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.

 “A girl holding a decade of Australian weather records in her hand on a modern-type magnetic disc storage unit,” 1970. Produced by the Australian News and Information Bureau, via the  National Archives of Australia .

“A girl holding a decade of Australian weather records in her hand on a modern-type magnetic disc storage unit,” 1970. Produced by the Australian News and Information Bureau, via the National Archives of Australia.

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:

 “Dr Tucker at work developing techniques for computer for weather forecasting in the southern hemisphere,” 1970. Produced by the Australian News and Information Bureau, via the  National Archives of Australia . 

“Dr Tucker at work developing techniques for computer for weather forecasting in the southern hemisphere,” 1970. Produced by the Australian News and Information Bureau, via the National Archives of Australia

Their Baby is a Bomb, 1959

Their Baby is a Bomb, 1959

Reading the White

Reading the White