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Twenty-one from 2021: The year in photos

This past year saw the gradual resumption of life at Stanford, from the cautious reawakening of campus labs to the vibrant return of our entire student body for an in-person fall quarter. We look back at some favorite frames in the arc toward a new pandemic normal – moments of reconnection, restoration and lift – with university photographer Andrew Brodhead.

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Feb. 11, 2021: Hakeem Jefferson, assistant professor of political science, and Kory Gaines, ’21

“This was the first Meet Our Faculty profile that I shot since we went into lockdown. Working with Hakeem and Kory, they were two super amazing people. We got along immediately, talking about music and past experiences. Within the first 10 minutes, we were able to break down the barriers, and it just felt like we were friends working together.

“At that time, very few people had been vaccinated, so we had to maintain a lot of separation. This entire shoot was conducted with a 90-millimeter lens, for the most part. I like the balance of the subjects, communicating through social distancing protocols. The moment of reflection and academic rigor.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Feb. 12, 2021: A juvenile red-tailed hawk takes flight after a brief perch on the cross atop Memorial Church.

“I was sitting in the Quad, waiting to shoot Professor William Moerner’s portrait, and I saw this bird fly down and land right on the cross at the apex of Memorial Church. I scrambled for my telephoto lens, and just as I got it, the bird took off. This is the first photo I shot. I just like the symmetry, the tension, the backlighting.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Feb. 17, 2021: Crews repaired Hoover Tower after a bolt of lightning struck the Stanford landmark for the second time in almost 50 years, causing visible damage to the building’s iconic silhouette.

“I like this image for the balance of blue space, the colors. And also how the moon happened to pop through at that point in time, kind of mimicking the concrete orb that was going on top. If you look closely, you notice the highlights on the moon match the highlights on the red-roof dome. It’s kind of cool to see that duality.

“Just before this photo was taken, I was right underneath Hoover Tower, and I couldn’t actually see the ball. I had to hop in a golf cart and drive all the way across campus, almost to the Science and Engineering Quad, to get the right perspective. This image was taken right when the repair crew was finally getting ready to set the ball on top, after lots of preparation. They had to make sure the bolts were in properly, and that the adhesive was set, and this was right when they were pushing it down. It turned out to be hard to shoot because I couldn’t tell what was going on through the viewfinder. I had been really trying to convince the install crew to let me get into the basket, but they wouldn’t let me. That would’ve been the shot.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

March 2, 2021: Stanford bioengineer James Swartz has spent a dozen years developing a two-stage vaccine approach that he believes could quickly protect billions of people from the next COVID-19-level pandemic.

“My favorite thing about shooting at Stanford is the fact that every day I’m experiencing something new and I’m learning constantly. I might not have a deep wealth of knowledge around each subject, but I learn all these fun facts and vignettes from people developing new pharmaceuticals, designing self-driving cars. … The ability to meet all these specialists, get a quick little sense of what they do and what they’re about, and then try to showcase that is a real treat.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

April 5, 2021: Stanford honored the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball champions with a campus parade a day after the Cardinal beat the Arizona Wildcats for the team’s first national title since 1992.

“Our women’s team had just won the national championship in basketball, and I heard there was going to be a parade, so I ran out to shoot it. This was a pivotal moment where all the fans were lined up to support the team, and the two coaches came by, waving. President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and his wife and their dog were all there because this was just such a big achievement.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

April 7, 2021: An outdoor class takes place next to one of the orbs in Alicja Kwade’s new campus installation, Pars pro Toto. The 12 stone globes scattered across the Science and Engineering Quad resemble a galaxy of small planets, as if the cosmos had been laid down at our feet.

“I was working on capturing drone video for Alicja Kwade’s new SEQ installation, and I looked toward the lawn and realized there was an outdoor class taking place. It was a moment that just felt authentic to the Stanford learning experience through COVID, bringing the class outside. I love the hierarchy of the manmade mounds, how it creates a nice diagonal line going through the image, along with the backlighting and the pink flowers. It was just an authentic moment I was able to experience while on a different shoot.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

April 16, 2021: Members of the campus community attended a special weekend preview at the Anderson Collection at Stanford University and the Cantor Arts Center. After more than a year of closure, the museums in spring began to welcome back the public at 25 percent capacity.

“My favorite thing to do in a gallery is look at people looking at art. I saw this couple standing in front of Reena Saini Kallat’s Woven Chronicle, and I just thought the composition, the body language and the colors worked so well. All of the stuff that’s hanging down from the piece is audio equipment. It played all these interesting sounds while you’re looking at it.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

April 28, 2021: Virginia Miller, a class president and varsity athlete, throws a javelin during practice on Angell Field.

“This photo was really fun to take because while I was working with Virginia on her student profile, she explained how the lead-up to throwing the javelin is just as important as actually throwing it. Instead of just taking a few steps and chucking it, you have to do this kind of orchestrated dance where you cross step three or four times, plant your front foot, cock your back like a reverse C and then snap forward. The whole process leading up to the throw really dictates how far the javelin can go. Eventually she taught me how to do it, and Kurt Hickman, our associate director of visual media, and I had a throw-off.

“I have plenty of shots that show Virginia at the apex of the throw, but I thought this photograph was really beautiful just based on how she’s floating in the air, and how her body is illustrating perfect form.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

May 27, 2021: The Oval.

“We were flying the drone around, working on aerial shots of campus, and when I angled the camera down, I realized the bird’s-eye view of Stanford is even more beautiful to me, more interesting, than the one we’re used to seeing. I think the image is fun because it’s something we never really look at.

“The amount of detail that Stanford’s groundskeepers go into, to plant different types of flowers, is phenomenal. Structurally and compositionally, I was baffled by how they were able to build this out.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

June 12, 2021: Stanford’s in-person Commencement returned after a year’s hiatus, with limited attendance, social distancing protocols and two different ceremonies – and speakers – for undergraduate and graduate degree recipients.

“This was the first time that we’ve held Commencement in the time of COVID, and it’s the first one I’ve shot. It was a little nerve-wracking, because there are so many broadcast cameras and I didn’t know how far I could push it, where I could go without getting in the way. But it was a really fun experience, to hear the speakers and see how excited the parents were to celebrate their kids and this monumental achievement. Being able to capture that rite of passage, and also run into students I had gotten to know, it was cool. It made me feel more welcome and a part of the Stanford community.

“The best part about this photo is the vantage point from the center, and how there’s a perfect split between the sky and the grass, with the red bleachers making a nice horizon line. And I like the fact that everyone’s using the brochures to block the sunlight.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

June 22, 2021: Delaney Miller, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, demonstrates a low-cost, open-source system developed by Stanford engineers to measure calories burned during activity.

“With this image, we were trying to create a composition that was going to be used as the banner for the research story. I was excited to try to capture some action, but also showcase the technology. I had to eliminate as many visual distractions as I could, and try to separate the runner from the background with a shallow depth of field.

“On the first attempt, I used auto-focus and it was jumping all over the place. So I made Delaney stand in the center of the crosswalk, so she would know exactly where I wanted her to run, then I set the camera to manual focus and then had Delaney pass through the frame. I think she ran through the frame at least three times before I nailed the shot. This shot was taken around 2000th of a second to stop the motion.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

July 23, 2021: New York-based conceptual artist Kiyan Williams, ’13, installs Reaching Towards Warmer Suns outside the Anderson Collection at Stanford University.

“Kiyan was working on this art installation right in front of the museum, while it was closed, and the sculpture had these beautiful arms made out of dirt, mud, resin and rebar. The light was really harsh and I was having a hard time finding a good angle, but there was this moment where they were holding the arms up, and I just love the way that the light was coming off their face. Kiyan had an exuberance, and also a maturity.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

July 30, 2021: Moremi Mabogunje and Lauren O’Connell, assistant professor of biology, take a close look at one of the inhabitants in O’Connell’s organismal biology lab. Mabogunje spent the summer at Stanford as part of a pilot program at the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, which provided Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Opportunity (NeURO) fellowships to local community college students.

“Lauren is so knowledgeable in her area, but also as a communicator. When she opened up the temperature-controlled rooms, and I realized that there were over 500 poison dart frogs in this subterranean lab, I lost my mind. I was so excited to be down there. She and Moremi handled the animals with so much care, but I learned that they’re not poisonous in their current state. They’re able to secrete toxins through their skin if they’re threatened, but only if they’re eating a certain diet.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Aug. 19, 2021: Biking on the Quad.

“I like how we see the community coming onto campus here, the architecture, the composition. There’s so much texture in the beautiful masonry work and the arches, the sandstone and terra cotta. The vantage point leads you all the way down to the end of Palm Drive. The child is wearing red, matching the flowers – just small, funny little things. It’s rare that you capture Memorial Court without any shadows. This was definitely taken at high noon.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Aug. 19, 2021: Researchers from Stanford’s Personalized Human Neurotherapeutics Lab fit a subject with an EEG net to monitor the brain’s electrical activity. The researchers are working in Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute’s new Koret Human Neuroscience Community Laboratory, where they are preparing to test a non-invasive form of brain stimulation called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which has recently shown promise for treating major depression and other disorders.

“This subject was super cool. This photo is sort of voyeuristic, but the researchers also allowed me to come into the room while they put on this special net cap. They took all this conductive gel and shot it into each of the individual probes and were able to test certain portions of the subject’s frontal lobe to see what was registering with different emotions. Shooting this felt like ultimate science for me. I’ve never seen this before.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Sept. 10, 2021: Graduate students participate in a weeklong course on planetary stewardship at the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm.

“These two students were on their lunch break, admiring the beauty and the biodiversity on the farm. Showing human connection during the COVID era has been a challenge, so when I see moments like this, I like to take advantage of them.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Sept. 14, 2021: The Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, dean for religious and spiritual life, welcomed new first-year and transfer students and their families to Stanford at the 131st Opening Convocation Ceremony, the formal inauguration of the academic year.

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Sept. 15, 2021: Day 2, New Student Orientation.

“This one’s fun because it’s a weird perspective. I like how the silhouettes of the students are cast onto the walkway. As your eye scans across the image, you notice lots of interesting interactions.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Oct. 12, 2021: Stanford Professor Guido Imbens woke up before 3 a.m. to news he’d won the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences.

“Guido was receiving media requests from people all around the world, and he was pacing back and forth taking phone calls. What I love about this photograph is how he’s segmented between his windows. I like seeing how busy he was on that morning, but also having the personal element of his house, a bit of who he is, behind him. And I think the composition, the negative space, makes this fun. I was trying to understand what the black shape in the window is, for a long period of time. I think it’s a cat lounge. But Guido was extremely friendly and grateful to have us there, and later on, I actually went back and a shot a few additional portraits of him and his wife, Susan.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Oct. 22, 2021: Transfer student Johann Smith, a former professional soccer player and volunteer coach, greets the Stanford Men’s Soccer team as they get ready for practice on a Friday afternoon in the fall.

“This photo was taken in the first five minutes of this shoot. I love it because it’s so busy. Things are isolated into micro-interactions. As you scan through it, you see people that are joking on the bench, having a good time, passing balls back and forth. And it was cool just to see this camaraderie of a team sport. Also, you can tell everybody in the photo is really excited to see Johann because he’s an ex-professional soccer player. They’re excited to work with him.”

Image credit: Andrew Brodhead

Nov. 16, 2021: A team painstakingly repairs four panels of the iconic stained-glass windows at Stanford Memorial Church.

“This was really a fun project to work on because I was able to scale the scaffolding from Memorial Court and climb through the broken stained-glass window to enter the church. The reason I love this photo is it shows two things: You see the restoration taking place, and you also get to see the glass as it was meant to be seen, backlit from inside the church. To see the true beauty of this amazing piece of work was a real treat. I like the intense focus here, and the composition – how the two subjects are mirroring each other’s form.”