Alejandro Guijarro photographs the chalkboards of some of the brightest minds in quantum physics for his continuing series Momentum. He went to research facilities like CERN and many of the top universities in the world to find them.
“I photographed this blackboard at Stanford University in the US, in San Francisco. Everything on it relates to physics. And all the blackboards in this space are from departments of quantum mechanics, and this is just one of them
I think the main concern of my work is the relation between photography and reality. This does, of course reflect that relationship, and my idea of doing physics was that physics is the most precise representation of reality. I wanted to see what that representation would look like.
I think the messiness we see is because it was in a corridor and people would come by, just write something, and then go. So it’s not the blackboard of a lecture. It’s more like a space for private thinking, you know, of physicists and groups of physicists.
The painterliness is what I found interesting, set against the precise representations of this physics reality or the super-rational objects in mathematical thought, which are based on an abstraction.
Another challenge of the project was that in many places they no longer use blackboards. I couldn’t find any departments in London who used blackboards. So I had to go to Oxford, Cambridge and places like that, where they still use them.
But they want to get rid of them, so in a way they’re obsolete objects.
The universities are not really interested in my photos. They live with these objects every day so when I asked them if I could photograph a blackboard, they asked why.
I just sent emails and got permission. It was quite difficult to get access, but once you knew one physicist, they would introduce you to another one and another one and it goes from there.
I did research about quantum mechanics. I always asked the people I met but it made no sense to me. The equations here have something to do with very trendy names like M-theory or String Theory or Supersymmetry. It sounds great but I don’t know what they mean.”
– Alejandro Guijarro