Bradley Professor Wins Prestigious Photography Award

Margaret LeJeune, associate professor, Department of Art and Design, was named the Woman Science Photographer of the Year by the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) for her image, “Watershed Triptych.” Female photographers from around the world submitted images for consideration.

“I was surprised and excited to be honored with this award,” she said. RPS was founded in 1853 to promote the art and science of photography.

LeJeune’s creative research focuses on water and the climate crisis. The Watershed Triptych is from a series titled “Growing Light” in which she used bioluminescent organisms to generate photographic light. “I became interested in working with bioluminescence while sailing my boat in the Chesapeake Bay. I saw bioluminescent organisms one summer and then did not see them the next. I wondered what was changing in the environment that caused these organisms to disappear.

“After learning about the connections between watershed pollutants, rising ocean temperatures and red tide, I created this work.” In the Growing Light series, the light functions as both the subject matter and part of the technical process, exposing the content in the works. This work was possible, in part, by a New Directions Research Excellence Grant from Bradley University.

“As a marriage of conceptual photography, painterly mark-making, and scientific exploration, these images capture the beauty of this unique light source, exploring the quiet evidence of energy and decomposition in nature along with the threats humans pose to even microscopic life in the Anthropocene,” she explained. “This work provokes discussions about the technical possibilities of bioluminescent organisms as photographic medium as well as larger dialogues about climate change, stewardship, and the interconnectedness of life on our planet. These maps represent the three largest watersheds in the United States and the outflow areas where algal blooms have been recorded.

“I am proud to be the winner of this inaugural award that calls attention to women-identifying artists and their contributions at the intersection of art and science.”

Emily Potts