These Incredible/Gross Photos Were Printed With E. Coli Bacteria

These woozy prints of the famous faces of Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin were created using a modified photo printing process invented by artist Zachary Copfer. Rather than use traditional light-sensitive photo emulsion to print photos, he instead used a special genetically altered E coli. It's gross to think about, but oh so beautiful to look at.

Here's the step-by-step process Copfer uses to make his "Bacteriography." First, he transforms a batch of E. coli with fluorescent protein from a jellyfish. He then covers a photo plate with the mixture and exposes it to radiation to create a negative. To stop the reaction, he sticks the exposed bacteria in a fridge and covers the plate in acrylic to preserve the negative. After stopping the reaction—much like you would the development of film—he uses the plates to print photos. Pretty genius, really.

These prints in particular are from a series called "My Favorite Artist" in which Copfer hopes to challenge the hard divide many people like to draw between science and art. You see, before getting his MFA from the University of Cincinnati, Copfer was a microbiologist, and from reading the statements his website, it's clear he fell in love with the poetic side of scientific phenomena—and of, well, the grossest stuff in the world. [Zachary Copfer via UC via Peta Pixel]

Images courtesy of Zachary Copfer