Artist Spotlight — Rob Kesseler: Microscopic Photography

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge “Treat,” we’re thrilled to share more from Rob about his fascination with seeds and his process in capturing these stunning images – treats and mysterious wonders of nature. ~ Amber Lotus

Images from our Pollen Seeds Fruit 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

Images from our Pollen Seeds Fruit 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

From childhood, my love of flowers has always been an instinctive response to the sheer diversity of colors and shapes, and I think this is reinforced by the cyclical nature of the way they appear and are transformed throughout the seasons. There is a reassuring regenerative spirit of familiarity to see a tiny shoot emerge from the ground into full-blown blossom, and I never get tired of looking at the annual spring spectacle.

Looking is a somewhat undervalued skill rooted in our primitive needs to identify pattern, form, and shape in order to facilitate secure passage through life. The more intensely we look, the better our cognitive powers to interpret and translate our response into new physical form.

A lens, in both its physical and contextual form, gives a point of focus that enhances clarity of observation and nourishes our vision. It is both the lens of my own eyes and those of the various microscopes I use that nourish my creative drive and provide me with the stimulus to share my passion with others.

Process

The images are created using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). I prepare the specimens by coating them with a micro-fine layer of gold before bombarding them with a beam of electron particles and focusing them through powerful magnets onto a screen. The resulting images have phenomenal resolution at high magnification, anything up to X 10,000. But I often work with larger specimens at low magnification, taking up to fifty shots that are subsequently pieced together in the post-production phase.

Color is then introduced using Photoshop. The question of color is often a topic that arouses discussion: Is this the real color? Or is it false color? Well clearly, this is not the color of the real specimen, but neither do I consider it false, a term applied by scientists to color that is added automatically with little scope for author intervention.

My use of color is a subjective and expressive interpretation that starts with reference to the original plant or flower, is modified to reveal structural and functional characteristics, and finally is resolved through what I might describe as chromatic intuition. The end result is one where my relationship with each specimen, from collection through drawing and photographing, is distilled into a powerful and mesmeric iconic image. As each plant uses color to attract an audience of insect collaborators, so I use color to attract a human audience for cultural and artistic purposes.


Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Chair of Arts, Design and Science at Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts, London. A former NESTA Fellow at Kew and Research Fellow at the Gulbenkian Science Institute, Portugal, during the past fourteen years he has collaborated with botanical scientists and molecular biologists in an exploration of the living world at a microscopic level. He is a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society and the Linnean Society.

At the heart of new directions in art and science, his powerful images have reached a global audience and have been translated into a wide range of contexts and media, including ceramics, glass and textiles, video, and photography.


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New for 2016 — Pollen Seeds Fruit Wall Calendar
This new fantastic calendar was recently featured on My Modern Met.PSF16-0C-blog

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