Images created from E coli and S marcescens bacterial growth will been displayed at the University of Cincinnati from June 8 to June 12, 2012 by fine arts photography graduate student Zachary Copfer.
Copfer has used the natural growth process of bacteria to create a new artistic imaging process. He used bacteria like S marcescens, or E coli treated with DNA from jellyfish to create startling realistic images that depict a completely recognizable Albert Einstein or a dinosaur or rabbit or even the Milky Way.
The various images created by Copfer have been displayed. Copfer has coined his new photographic process as Bacteriography. Put simply, it is a process to develop images in plates of bacteria. That is to say, the bacteria which are a living medium literally grow to form photographic images.
"The process is very similar to traditional darkroom photography only instead of light-sensitive photo paper, I use plates of bacteria. For this latest set of works that I will display in June, I've chosen to work S marcescens and with E coli bacteria. The S marcescens I'm using to create images of Einstein, Darwin and DaVinci," states Copfer. "The E coli is transformed by the DNA of jellyfish, which causes the bacteria to fluoresce (glow). I can then manipulate the bacteria to display any form by exposing it to radiation (vs ultraviolet light as is traditional in photography). Where I block the radiation light, an image is formed in the bacteria. For my thesis series, I'm forming bacteriaography images of stars, galaxies, nebulae and the remnants of supernovas with the transformed E coli. I call this series Star Suff. These will all represent images taken by the Hubble Telescope."
To create the images, Copfer took a supply of bacteria like E coli and transformed it with a fluorescent protein, in this case, the DNA of jellyfish. Alternately, one can also use S marcescens without transforming it. He then coated a layer of this mixture onto a plate and allowed it to settle into the plate.
Following this, he created a "photo negative" by exposing the plate to radiation. Where the radiation light is blocked, an image form is created. He then "maintained" the image by putting it into a refrigerator or coating it with a thin layer of acrylic. When the image formed by the phosphorescent bacteria is finally coated with an acrylic and resin, it is "set" and ready for display.