Earlier this year I was assigned to photograph Project Breathe for Microsoft. Project Breathe is a smartphone-based solution which allows people with cystic fibrosis to monitor their health at home with devices that measure key indicators such as lung function, blood oxygen levels and activity. That data is then stored in the cloud and can be accessed by clinicians on a dashboard using Power BI, Microsoft’s data visualisation platform, to look for trends and determine when patients are becoming unwell. By tracking their own data, patients can intervene earlier and potentially head off serious, lung-damaging infections.
The solution was developed through a consortium involving Microsoft, the U.K.-based Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the University of Cambridge, Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, Microsoft Research and Magic Bullet.
I wanted to capture the human side of the project and show how the tech was improving people’s lives. The problem was that as we were discussing the photography the world changed and the UK went into lockdown. How do you photograph during a pandemic which is shielding the most vulnerable, when the assignment requires photographing people with cystic fibrosis in various locations including hospitals?
There was an initial thought that we should postpone the story but then realised that the lockdown was not going away and that Project Breathe became even more important to capture. The fundamental concept of the idea was to reduce hospital visits and try and have each person monitor, understand, and manage their condition.
The pandemic meant that there was a new risk to anyone visiting a hospital with cystic fibrosis, and hospitals were now under great pressure to reduce visits that were not Covid 19 related.
I spent time talking with everyone involved to learn as much as I could about how they were part of Project Breathe, and in the cases of those with cystic fibrosis, how they were using the tech.
It was an incredibly inspiring project to photograph and I enjoyed spending time with everyone involved. I have also been pleased at the initial response with a great retweet and comment from Satya Nadella
To read the full article -
Following the announcement of Project Natick’s Phase 2 results on Monday, the “wild experiment” has seen increased attention as influencers continue to recognise the research is “less crazy than it sounds.” Called a “bizarre idea”, ”wild and creative”, and even “Davy Jones’s data-centre”, the effort has driven articles around the world, spanning a variety of audience types including top press, tech forums, business platforms, policy focused communities, sustainable media and channel press.
The photography and film have also featured on the Microsoft website –
and performed strongly on their blog, YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn feeds.
Across all audiences the reliability of the underwater solution was a key point and overall, articles highlighted the project’s overall success and “promising findings” while illustrating Microsoft as an innovator with a customer-led focus. The “high-quality imagery” was noted as a contributing factor to the success of the coverage. Steve Clayton’s (Chief story teller at Microsoft) Friday report commented that “There are a ton of lessons we’ve learned from this experiment that will improve the sustainability of datacentres on land and underwater in the future. I share the story for two reasons beyond the tech though – the first is, it’s just beautifully told story that embraces the power of visuals to draw you in. The second is to celebrate the audacity of the idea”.
Not every assignment has me photographing a research project that is developing a revolutionary approach to an ever-increasing requirement with a sustainably responsible solution. Not every assignment is on the coast in a beautiful part of the world. Not every assignment has me working alongside extremely talented and creative individuals (and teams), that are appreciative of myself.
Microsoft Project Natick was all the above and more. We were working out at sea, on the dock side and in an energy park, on the Orkney Islands and mainland Scotland.
Microsoft assigned Photobanks to capture the retrieval of the underwater datacentre and data analysis with stills photography, drone, and film. Do not get me wrong this was not all plain sailing. Logistically we were at the mercy of the weather, there were major travelling and working challenges to overcome with the current pandemic, and technically this was extremely difficult to capture; flying a drone from a boat out at sea, photographing inside the vessel with a portable flash system and filming interviews on the key side in between ferry horns, seagulls and fishermen.
However, despite all these niggles, I returned to the Airbnb every evening throughout the shoot thinking … I love my job.
To read about the project and see the photos, film and drone pictures –
One of the projects that I photographed with Microsoft last year was Station B.
Microsoft is creating a platform and bringing together partners to program biological systems, essentially understanding how to program cells like we program computers and eventually control how a cell behaves. Instead of programming in 1s and 0s researchers are using the building blocks of DNA to write “programs” that could, for instance, help a cell recognize and attack cancer. This can open doors to new treatments, drugs, cures and materials. The industry holds huge promise but still faces a number of challenges.
Microsoft is leveraging its expertise in programming and research to develop systems with state of the art programming languages, algorithms and machine learning methods to program cells; something few companies have the capabilities and research infrastructure to do.
Microsoft is partnering with researchers at Princeton University in the US and two UK companies – Oxford BioMedica, which focuses on gene and cell therapy, and Synthace, which develops scientific software – as it develops the new system, called Station B.
The project is featured in the Financial Times