Author: Mark Unger


Science Photographer

Engineering wonder in the lab

meet anand

In Anand Varma’s hands, a camera is a tool to illuminate the layers of beauty and complexity that are hidden from our naked eye. He founded the National Geographic Wonder Lab in Berkeley, California, to create intimate, dramatic, and surprising images of nature—from the life cycle of the honeybee to the lightning-fast movements of hummingbirds. His images slow down the fast, speed up the slow, and magnify the miniature to reveal life at the edge of human perception. Varma was a National Geographic Media Innovation Fellow in 2018 and a Rita Allen Foundation Civic Science Fellow in 2020.

Engineering wonder in the lab
Nominated by: Rebecca Martin MN'02
Class of 2023 Location USA
Author: Vijay Varma

The greatest reward of working at the intersection of photography and science is seeing how my images help people rethink their assumptions about the natural world. It has never been more critical for us to understand how our natural world works, yet we are facing unprecedented skepticism of science and widespread apathy toward the environment. Existing solutions to this crisis—often based on activating fear or guilt—have clearly come up short. We need a new framework for understanding our relationship with the natural world. I believe that framework starts with attention, leads to curiosity, and ends with each of us finding our own way to connect with and value our planet. My work represents a new way to think about how images can shape our attention and cultivate our curiosity.

Author: Mark Unger

“From the birth of a bee to the dance of a hummingbird, I helped people discover the richness that so often goes unnoticed. My dream is to foster deeper connections between people and the natural world. This requires embracing the beauty, structure and function of nature while valuing all of the complexity in between.”

- Anand Varma

I am striving to understand how to reset entrenched biases, explain complex phenomena, and remove the perceptual filters that blind us to the richness in front of our eyes. While my subjects tend to be in the realm of nature, I believe the insights my work provides could apply to the many struggles that arise from living in a diverse and rapidly changing world.

My hope is to foster deeper connections between humans and the world we live in. This requires embracing the beauty, structure, and function of nature while valuing all of the complexity in between. I want to bring together scientists, artists, engineers, and educators to assist me in using the content I create as a test bed for understanding how to activate curiosity and sustain attention toward the extraordinary world around us.

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read about the class of 2023