Bacteria Portraits, Bacteriogoraphy

As a former microbiologist recently turned visual artist, I seek to create work that is less of an intersection of art and science and more of a genuine fusion of the two. During my graduate research I invented a new medium that combines photographic process with microbiological practices. The process is very similar to darkroom photography only the enlarger has been replaced by a radiation source and instead of photographic paper this process uses a petri dish coated with a living bacterial emulsion. I believe that great beauty and poetry reside within the theories woven by scientists. And that it is through the unification of art and science that these treasures can be fully explored and made accessible to the world at large.

When I was an undergraduate perusing a degree in Biology, I found myself utterly mesmerized by what I was learning. Each day’s lecture brought to my attention new insights into the complex systems at work in the world around me. The more I learned, the more mystified I became. Science grew into a way for me to revel in the beauty of the universe. I began to better understand and appreciate my place among all of the other particles floating in space. After obtaining my bachelors degree, I began working as a microbiologist in a commercial lab setting. Quickly I began to lose sight of all that I had found romantic about science. Shortly after this disinfatuation of science, I began an adventure into the field of photography. Photography developed into my new method of inquiry. Everything that I had missed about science I rediscovered in photography. For me, the two seemingly disparate fields of study served the same purpose, a way to explore my connection to everything else around me.

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45 thoughts on “Bacteria Portraits, Bacteriogoraphy

  1. Pingback: Quand l’art et la science se marient  |  Blogue science | Radio-Canada.ca

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  4. very interesting , but I am curious about the biology. Is there a mask used, or is the radiation killing growth as exposed in an x-y stepping system? Can the images be fixed? Looks like a fun project!

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  12. (you used the same sentence at the end and beginning of your artist statement just to let you know!)

    I love this so much! What a cool idea. Sometimes when I see great art pieces online i’m like “why didn’t I think of that?” but this is something I NEVER would have thought of! :D

  13. Pingback: Fotografías hechas con bacterias « LA BOLSA DEL MERCADER

    • and you are far to kind. Micro was by far my favorite subject in my undergrad. There was something so fun and exciting about getting an unknown organism and running it through a series of tests to identify it. Good luck!

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  16. This is amazing, the second paragraph of you post could have been written by me. I too, am a former Microbiologist turned photographer. When I left uni I began work as a QA microbiologist for a large pharmaceutical company, the work wasn’t suited to me and I soon became very ill. While I was recovering it was suggested to me to try something creative- I picked up a camera and haven’t looked back. I undertook a part time course and fell in love with the darkroom and alt. processes. I have often thought about a way of achieving what you have here, it is awesome and has so many possibilities. Yours, ever so slightly jealous xxx

  17. Serratia marcescens produce a nice red color for the picture. Did you try other bacteria on differents agars? The MRSA on a denim blue agar will give you a beautiful white and blue image! Or a H2S+ bacteria on a salmonella/shigella agar for a black and red effect! Have fun with your art!

    • Yes, my mind has been running wild with the different effects I can achieve using a variety of organisms on different selective and differential media! Now that I have completed grad school, I hope to take an even more playful approach to my process.

  18. You’ve said it better than I could. I went the same route you did, but I’m still stuck in the microbiology field.
    I’ve picked up writing and designing knitting patterns instead of photography.

    I can’t express how great it is to know there’s another artsy biology nerd out there. Good luck to you! :)

  19. Interesting images. However, given that you are using existing images and your technique, this is craft not art.

    Also, do you have permission to use those images?

    • Appropriated images don’t count as art? Tell that to the people who spent 100 million on a Warhol. The line between craft and art was dissolves decades ago.

      These images are all in the public domain. However, even if they weren’t, this method of reproduction would not violate the photography copyright laws. But thank you for your concern.

  20. i am thrilled to have come across the blog. i also received my undergraduate degree in biology and about halfway through it i discovered and fell completely in love with the notion that science and art are one in the same. my particular brand of fusion has led me to graduate studies in design and architecture, but it is so beautiful to see it translated into the fine arts. keep it up.

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  23. This is really cool! I am a biologist going for a secondary degree in radiation therapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center and I really admire your work. I am curious though as to what sort of radiation energy you used. Did you use MV or KV energy and how much? I wonder because in treating cancer patients, energy can range from 6-18MV and we use other forms of energy such as proton and electron therapy and it’d be interesting to see how well bacteria tolerate radiation compared to human cells.

    Keep up the great work, I love it when science and art can come together as well as you have created.

  24. Pingback: feral intelligence » Blog Archive » bacteria as art

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