Bacteria As Beautiful – Zachary Copfer

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Zachary Copfer has also seen the beauty in bacteria and uses it to create these stunningly accurate and detailed “bacteriographs”. With an undergraduate degree in biological sciences, he spent five years in a lab coat before shifting gears to get an MFA, which he completed this past spring. And now, he says, he’s “going through that difficult transition from grad student to professional artist.”

This is his method in order to create these incredible images:

“I take a petri dish with nutrient agar and cover the entire surface with an even coat of bacteria. I then take a special photographic negative of the image that I want to ‘print’ and place it over the petri dish.

“Next, I send radiation through the negative and onto the petri dish. As the radiation hits the negative, some of it is blocked and some of it passes through and hits the petri dish below. Where the radiation goes through the bacteria die, where it is blocked the bacteria grow. Take for example the Einstein image. The little red dots are where the negative blocked the radiation and the bacteria grew. The white space is where the radiation came through and sterilized the bacteria.

“After exposing the bacteria latent petri dish to radiation, I allow it to grow for several days. After I feel that the image has finished ‘developing’ I irradiate the entire thing so the bacteria will stop reproducing. This ‘fixes’ the image and keeps the bacteria from spreading all over the place. Finally I use acrylic and resin to preserve and protect the bacteria.”


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