<p>Zachary Copfer merges photographic techniques with microbiology to create “bacteriography.”</p>
When you think of the long-established artistic practice of portraiture, chances are bacteria is not among the first things to come to mind as the perfect medium to render someone’s likeness. Or maybe it is if you’re a bio-artist like Zachary Copfer, who’s taken the tiny lifeforms we usually associate with getting a cold and created portraits of famous scientists, artists, and the universe.
Copfer, a visual artist with a background in microbiology, is calling his technique “bacteriography” because it combines photographic techniques with those of microbiology. His method is pretty similar to how you produce a photo in the dark room—something probably hardly any of us know about since digital photography has long rendered the process near obsolete.
In the dark room, a projector known as an enlarger is used to create prints from the film negative, but Copfer replaces the enlarger with a radiation source. Photographic paper is replaced with a petri dish that houses an emulsion of living bacteria, instead of photographic emulsion. And, hey presto, he has a picture of the Milky Way forged in E. coli.
Leonardo da Vinci Bacteria (Serratia marcescens), Nutrient Agar, Petri Dish 9.5 × 9.5 inches 2012
Charles Darwin Bacteria (Serratia marcescens), Nutrient Agar, Petri Dish 9.5 × 9.5 inches 2012
Pablo Picasso Bacteria (Serratia marcescens), Nutrient Agar, Petri Dish 9.5 × 9.5 inches 2012
Milky Way Galaxy E. coli genetically modified with GFP 9 × 9 inches 2012