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The Sciences

Flashing: Bioluminescent Bacteria Light Up Nude Portraits


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Note: The photograph in this post contains mild nudity. Click the link to see the image and description: 


In a current exhibition titled "Exploring the Invisible" at London's Royal Institution, you can see glowing images that are each the result of a three minute exposure illuminated by bioluminescence. The bacteria uses the enzyme luciferase to give off light, which is often used as a tool to help scientists see what is going on inside cells at a microscopic level. Here artist Anne Brodie is using it as an external light source, to image a whole person. This collaborative project between the artist Anne Brodie and scientist Dr. Simon Park is the outcome of an arts award from the Wellcome Trust, and is open to the public until December 3rd. Anne Brodie:

"The idea originally came from seeing bioluminescent algae washed up after high tide on a beach in Ireland. My dog was walking through it at night leaving a glowing footprint trail. I tried to cultivate the algae but found it only produces light when agitated. I then discovered Photobacterium phosphoreum. Around the same time microbiologist Dr. Simon Park from the University of Surrey contacted me after reading about my interest in bioluminescence. I worked with him on the project, sometimes culturing in liquid media, sometimes on solid agar plates. The idea for creating a 'bioluminescent photo booth' to create images using the bacteria came as we were working with the bacteria in a small culture room and noticed how even a small vessel was be capable of illuminating our faces."


mage courtesy Anne Brodie/Wellcome Trust

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