The PIONEERS OF CLEAN ENERGY Portrait Project is creating a collection of 200 photographic portraits and video interviews of the top scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs leading the clean energy revolution. 

One of the primary goals of this project is to touch and inspire youth, especially of college age. Though the project has the capacity to enlighten, educate and inspire all ages, by specifically identifying the college-age audience attending major public and private universities, there is an opportunity to directly impact their direction of study and ultimately their career paths. Through on-campus museum exhibitions and speaker series, the Pioneers of Clean Energy project is one way of attracting a wider range of high-level talent into the clean energy sector.

In addition to a university-focused traveling exhibition, the portfolio and videos will be featured in a variety of print and digital-media outlets, fully downloadable via a robust website digital archive, and offered as printed portfolio-gifts to national art and history museums that will exhibit, share and archive the images and interviews for the benefit of all generations. By illuminating these pioneers’ innovations and personal stories, we will inspire individuals, companies and policy makers to embrace change, innovate, and ultimately improve people’s lives while sustaining the health of our planet’s environment.  

Video ::: Artist Talk at Sierra Nevada College

Video ::: Project Concept and Prototypes

the Photographer

Renowned photographer Rick Chapman is the driving force behind this project.  Rick is drawn to clean energy innovators because they represent the essence of the American pioneer spirit, “courageously offering an exciting glimpse into our future, not unlike the explorers reporting their experiences of the 19th century western frontier or astronauts engaged in 20th century space travel". Chapman says, "I see the pioneers involved in 21st century energy pursuits as scientist-artists utilizing the tools of current technology to make the world a more balanced, efficient and sustainable place. In its most perfect and romantic form, the scientific exploration for clean energy refinement rises above our globe’s political, religious, and physical boundaries".  We are at a crossroads in human history, needing to find ways to sustain our Earth and our ever-growing population. The pioneers of clean energy are forging these crucial pathways.

With nearly 25 years of successfully working with his camera in the arts and advertising communitiies, Chapman recognizes the power of imagery and media to harness & mobilize interest, action and excitement about the clean energy revolution. Chapman is enthusiastic about meeting the currently unknown Edisons, Fords and Einsteins in our midst...

The portraits and interviews will motivate our youth to be the innovators of the future, and my personal goal is for them to ultimately view these pioneers with the same awe our culture has for famous sports stars, actors and musicians.
— Rick Chapman

Chapman's previous work includes  the ESPY Collection,  a portfolio of the some of the most celebrated contemporary athletes housed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, a series of Muhammad Ali portraits currently on loan to the US Embassy in Turkey, several years of NBA Championship portraits and a series of USA Men's Soccer team portraits.   

the pioneers

The Pioneers of Clean Energy Project is documenting individuals working under the media spotlight as well as those doing remarkable things unbeknownst to most of the world. While this portfolio is certainly celebrating successful new entrepreneurial pathways in multiple sectors of clean energy business, our deeper interest is in illuminating the specific individuals leading the charge, their personal stories and motivations. We believe that intimate portraits and interviews will inspire viewers’ curiosity, inspire questions and deeper inquiry, as much as they may entertain or delight.

Our job is not to create the definitive quintessential list of clean energy pioneers. This is an impossible task and ever changing. Rooted deep in this project is an understanding that all change is instigated by individuals and, in the long-history view, the stories of the unsuccessful can be just as interesting and inspirational as the stories of the successful.  Every technological success combined with every dead-end helps us to collectively get closer to the goal of a clean energy future. To paraphrase the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote, “The credit goes to the person who is actually in the arena” (link to full quote)  

When the project has been completed, we will have documented 200 subjects, each with a collection of still portraits and edited video interviews. Everything produced will be gifted, shared and distributed by every means possible to the public. This project is in its infancy.   We have interviewed and photographed thirteen pioneers.  Of these, we have created finished videos for Emily Kirsch, Joshua Pierce and Nitash Balsara (below). Mini-bios and still portrait galleries for Emily, Joshua, Nitash and the ten other pioneers can be found on THE PIONEERS menu tab.