Biobot Analytics for Bloomberg Businessweek


In early April, during the first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, I heard about a lab in the Boston area that was testing municipal waste water and sewage as a way of discovering COVID-19 infection rates in a community. After a little research, I pitched the story of Biobot Analytics to Bloomberg Businessweek, and happily, editors there were interested. A few weeks later, I was in the lab on a late Friday afternoon, photographing the lab in operation as they organized hundreds of samples, prepped water for analysis, and collated data. I also had a short portrait session with one of Biobot's founders and CEO,

As it turns out, the lab was an offshoot of the Eric Alm's lab at MIT, which also started the OpenBiome project, photographed in 2014 for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A big thanks to editors Jane and Ryan for helping make this story end up in print!

Provincetown during the Pandemic for the New York Times


For the New York Times, I spent an evening in Provincetown photographing the city's response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including their Town Ambassador program and an outdoor performance of the The Judy & Varla Show at the Crown & Anchor. The entire downtown area of Provincetown has been made a mandatory mask zone 24 hours a day and nightclubs, a mainstay of the city in summers, have not been allowed to open.

It was quite the sight seeing the normally-bustling streets almost empty at 11pm--the owner of a pedicab company in Provincetown told me that's right when things would really be getting going in previous summers.

Thanks to Jessie for the call!

Coronavirus Pandemic coverage for the Chronicle of Higher Education


Since the coronavirus pandemic started in March, I've photographed a handful of stories for the Chronicle of Higher Education about how faculty, students, and institutions, were affected by the global health emergency and how they've responded. From Harvard's student moveout in March to grad students unable to continue their research to professors trying to figure out how to manage teaching fully online or in person when a school forces them to do so, it's been interesting to talk with all of these people about how the academic world has been upended.

Thanks, as always, to Rose and Erica for the assignments.

Harvard moveout at the beginning of the pandemic

Graduate research stopped by pandemic quarantine orders

Boston University faculty and students protest reopening plan

Portraits of college professor teaching from home

Semper Ficus: Office plants left behind during the pandemic for the New York Times


Early in the coronavirus pandemic, I started thinking about what might be left behind in all the empty office buildings in downtown Boston and office parks in the suburbs. From an assignment years ago at a construction company's office, I knew that many office buildings hire outside companies to provide and maintain their plants. After a few google searches and phone calls, I found a handful of Boston-area companies that maintain office plants and discovered that they were indeed still working during the pandemic while offices remained empty.

I reached out to Brent at the New York Times Sunday Business section with a pitch about office plants left behind during the pandemic, and was happy to hear he liked it. After that was a lot of phone calls and emails working out the logistics and permissions with three office landscaping companies and then, at long last, a few days at the end of May hopping between office buildings following along as the horticulturalists pruned, watered, and turned plants toward light in offices all around the greater Boston metro area.

One thing I've got to confess is that prior to this story, I didn't know much about office plants. But afterward, with the patient help of all the horticulturalists I shadowed, I can pretty well identify most of the plants you'd run into in a sea of cubicle or near an elevator bank. I can spot a ZZ plant or Bird of Paradise from a distance. I can point out Dracaena 'Limelight' in a lobby full of Dracaena marginatas. I might even be able to tell you when your Fiddle Leaf Fig needs to be pruned.

Huge thanks go out to the teams at Cityscapes, Garden Streets, and Plantwerks, for all their help making this project possible.

And of course thanks to Brent and the team at the NYT for the support, for making the pictures sing on the full page I got for the story, and for coming up with the wonderful title "Semper Ficus." You can also see how the story ran on the New York Times website.

The 2020 New Hampshire Primary for Time


I covered the two final days of New Hampshire's 2020 First in the Nation Primary for Time magazine, focusing mostly on the campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren. Writing now, a few months later, it's hard to believe that Joe Biden abandoned the state before the votes were cast and also mind-boggling to see these huge crowds of people almost exactly a month before the pandemic shut everything down.

Huge thanks to Paul and Kim asking me to contribute to the magazine's coverage. I worked with them to cover the 2019 Iowa State Fair, as well, and it's always such a privilege and honor to have their support.

Elise Robinson at the Broad Institute for Spectrum News


For Spectrum News, I photographed Elise Robinson, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and her beautiful array of plants in her office and at home. Her work focuses on genetic variants that may contribute to autism. You can read the profile at Spectrum News: Elise Robinson: Untangling the roots of cause and effect.

A big thanks to Rebecca for getting in touch for the assignment, and to Elise and her team for being so generous with their time.

error: All images and text © M. Scott Brauer 2005-present