Art in a Petri dish

Former microbiologist Zachary Copfer was mesmerized by what he was learning every day as an undergraduate seeking a degree in biology. However, shortly after graduation he found himself in a commercial lab setting and his romance with science began to wane. That’s when he turned to photograph:

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. 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.

Here is some of what he has created:

Copfer explains the process:

The process is very similar to darkroom photography only the enlarger has been replaced by a radiation source and instead of photographic paper this process uses a petri dish coated with a living bacterial emulsion.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.

He has a number of pieces of science-art on his website, including ones of a galactic nature. They are, of course, very nice, but I don’t think they are necessarily his best. However, I do really like the idea of them. He takes something like E. coli, part of a group of the smallest living things on Earth, and he uses them to emulate the grandest of scales:

It looks like most of the trivia of what Copfer is doing can be found by poking around his site, but for anyone wondering, Einstein is made from S. marcescens grown on nutrient agar. The other scientist plates look to be the same, but I don’t know what sort of media he used to grow the other pieces of art.

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One Response

  1. Nice post..:-)

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