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This laboratory scene was completely created from scratch; all I had was a head shot of the subject, Vitaly G. The lab coat, the “nerd pack” in his breast pocket and the fumes; the table of elements and laboratory instrument charts on the wall; the test tubes near the sink were all integrated into this photomontage to tell a thrilling story.
In 1941 when Germany attacked Russia, Vitaly was graduating. His specialty was munitions. He tried to volunteer for the army but he had bad eyesight so they rejected him. But it isn’t clear whether they would have allowed him to go anyway; he was requisitioned by the munitions institute. They had him do R&D work in a laboratory until 1945 when he turned 29.
When his son Anatole was about 10 years old, Vitaly told him about his time in the lab: that he often had to carry nitroglycerin – the stuff dynamite is made of – from table to table in his laboratory. One stumble and it would all be over!