Hello World

[person_by] Frank van der Stok

January 2020

Seeing without a Seer: Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the human gut and a “model organism” for scientific research around the world. The variety shown here was genetically engineered to be the first living photographic biofilm. It is made by connecting a light-detecting gene from blue-green to a gene in E. coli that produces pigment. In order to “take a picture,” an image is projected onto a live culture of the biofilm: cells in the dark produce pigment, while those in light do not. After 12-15 hours, a living photograph has been produced at a resolution of 100 megapixels per square inch, or about 100 million bacteria per square inch.

Engineered by undergraduate students for a science competition, the first picture taken using this biofilm spells out “Hello World,” a tribute to a tradition in computer programming. The biofilm image above is on view at the Center for PostNatural History, loaned by the lab of Dr. Andy Ellington.

Frank van der Stok
Frank van der Stok (b. 1967) is a curator, editor, essayist and intermediary for artists and art institutions. He also works as an editor and producer of artists’ books.


Part of Studies

Thought photographTed Serios1967

Thought photograph, Ted Serios, 1967

Frank van der Stok

In this Post-Truth era, almost every photograph seems to be speculative by nature.


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