Agar plates (petri dishes with nutrient gel for growing bacteria) are stacked near a window. These plates have been inoculated with bacteria and are beginning to grow visible colonies.
Cultured bacteria and fungus
This is an agar plate with visible bacterial and fungal colonies. This particular plate contains samples taken from my hand. In this image, I am preparing to sample each species and grow them separately into usable living pigments.
Hypodermic needle pricks
To prevent contamination of the final plates with undesired microbes, I placed plastic sheets over the gel as I applied the bacteria via syringe. The dots seen here are where I applied various species of bacteria through the plastic sheet and into the gel with a hypodermic needle.
Final portrait #1
This is the first result of the hypodermic needle application through the plastic film.
Final portrait #2
This piece was done with a slightly different needling technique, which allowed one species of bacteria to dominate the portrait. On closer examination, one can see marks left in the agar by the needle.
Preparation of large agar tray
This improvised Pyrex® agar tray was specially sterilized in one of Washington University in St. Louis' Microbiology labs. A tray of this size had never been autoclaved before, so I worked with lab techs and professors to develop a new method of sterilization for oversized containers.
Overhead view of workstation
This is an in-progress shot of the large piece done in a Pyrex® cooking dish.
Sterile workstation and materials
These are the application, sterilization, and decontamination tools used in the project.
Final portrait #3
I applied bacteria to the large Pyrex® agar plate with a paintbrush. This different technique was challenging, as the bacteria in the brushstrokes are invisible when applied to the gel, but ultimately bacterial colonies took shape.