National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

Introducing WonderLab: One of a Kind Studio Provides Space To Capture Photographs of the Invisible World

National Geographic Explorer and photographer Anand Varma will use WonderLab, his new, cutting-edge storytelling studio in Berkeley, Ca. to document the lives of large and miniscule creatures revealing details that are missed with the naked eye

Washington, DC (September 26, 2023) A formally trained biologist, now renowned photographer, National Geographic Explorer Anand Varma has founded WonderLab, a physical space in Berkeley, California where he will develop innovative storytelling techniques to create images and videos that push the boundaries of how we understand the invisible world. 

“When I decided to pursue photography, I thought I had to abandon my childhood dream of becoming a scientist,” says Varma. “As I began to document the life cycles of bees, bats, jellyfish, and other insects I realized that science and photography are not mutually exclusive efforts. Science provides structured systems for observing the world while photography gives us tools for extending our visual perception.”

Composed of 23 digitally merged photographs, this image depicts a new honeybee emerging from a brood cell. In her six-week life span, this worker bee will forage for food, make honey and raise the next generation. Photo Credit: Anand Varma/National Geographic

Within WonderLab, Anand will develop breakthrough photography and filmmaking techniques that capture details and patterns often hidden or overlooked, culminating in his upcoming lifecycle visualization project: Metamorphosis.

“Wonder expands and challenges our understanding of the world,” says Varma. “Wonder leaves people ready to explore the world with fresh eyes. Evoking this feeling is the central goal of my work. With WonderLab, I can harness the power of wonder to develop novel ways of telling stories about the natural world.“

WonderLab also serves as an incubator for ideas and talent by offering mentorship and education opportunities for aspiring scientists and storytellers to cultivate their skills in visual communication. 

Recently, Anand facilitated a technical and immersive, storytelling training with the Second Assistant cohort of storytelling Explorers where he demonstrated his methodology for taking captivating visuals and invited the Explorers to experiment with different photography techniques.

Photo Credit: Mark Unger 

National Geographic Society has also launched a digital collection of online educational resources inspired by Anand’s work, that invites educators and youth to cultivate the mindset of an Explorer which includes curiosity, empathy, empowerment, problem-solving, and storytelling.

Anand and the National Geographic Society aim to explore the mysteries of our world hidden in plain sight, demonstrating how science coupled with stunning visual storytelling sparks curiosity and creates a deeper connection our natural world. 

“A compelling photograph can change us, it can challenge assumptions, make room for new ideas, and expand our curiosity,” says Kaitlin Yarnall, Chief Storytelling Officer at National Geographic Society. “Through WonderLab and Anand’s expertise, we can use stunning visuals to expand the way we see the world and evoke wonder and awe for the overlooked things around us.“ 

Additionally, today, September 26, 2023, National Geographic Books published Anand’s book, “Invisible Wonders: Photographs of the Hidden World.” Anand guides readers through an eye-popping collection of fascinating images—his own and those of many others—that reveal patterns and details within nature unseen by the naked eye but revealed by the photographer. UPDATE: Anand and WonderLab will also be featured in a new National Geographic TV series: Photographer, which airs in 2024 and chronicles the life and work of National Geographic photographers, filmmakers, and visual storytellers.

A selection of images and videos from Anand’s portfolio are available in this Press Kit. 

To learn more about Anand and WonderLab visit www.natgeo.org/wonderlab 

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.