Felice Frankel, an award-winning photographer and a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, has donated nearly 600 images to the MIT Libraries. The images will be housed in Dome, the libraries’ digital collections of images, media, maps, and more built as a companion site to DSpace@MIT.
The photographs were taken during Frankel’s early career as a landscape architecture photographer. Many of the sites captured are iconic in the world of built landscape, such as Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Richard Haag’s Bloedel Reserve, and Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden.
The idea to share her collection broadly stemmed from conversations Frankel had with library staff about the importance of images and making them accessible. In 2016, Frankel gave a brown bag talk for the libraries’ Program on Information Science, where she argued that images and figures are first-class intellectual objects and should be considered just as important as text in publication, learning, and thinking.
Frankel sees the collection as an educational tool: “The more people see quality, the more they will understand what quality is.”
This visual collection can support teaching and learning in faculty curricula and student research in a variety of disciplines, but can be especially useful in landscape architecture, architecture, and art.
Recently, Frankel has become well-known for a different type of photography: scientific images. Her work was featured alongside that of Harold “Doc” Edgerton and Berenice Abbott in the recent MIT Museum exhibition "Images of Discovery," and her scientific images have been published in numerous articles and publications for general audiences, such as National Geographic, Nature, Science, Newsweek, Scientific American, Discover, and Popular Science. Frankel teaches researchers and others how to create compelling compositions and graphics and communicate complex scientific phenomena. Her book, "Picturing Science and Engineering," which includes a step-by-step guide to creating science images that are both accurate and visually stunning, was published by the MIT Press in 2018.
“The [landscape architecture work] might look disparate from my work now, but it’s all about capturing structured information,” she says. “The scientific images are just as much landscapes. There’s a visual thread throughout the work: a way of composing.”
For Frankel, the photos of built landscapes are about capturing an experience — getting a feel for a place from one small moment. She hopes their availability in Dome will expand access not just for designers or design students but for anyone interested in stunning design: “I’m eager to send it out into the world.”