Bacteria Portraits Created Directly From Their Portrayed Subjects [Pics]

Bacteria Portraits Created Directly From Their Portrayed Subjects [Pics]

Bacteriographs of celebrities like Stephen Fry will be featured at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 11 february 2014

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair has teamed up with celebrities like Stephen Fry for an artsy scientific experiment to grow portraits made out of bacteria taken from their own bodies.

The Pop Art style portraits or “bacteriographs” are created by American microbiologist and photographer Zachary Copfer who takes a sample of bacteria from the subjects and grows them in a petri dish. Copfer exposes areas of the petri dish to radiation to stimulate bacterial growth and create a photograph of the subjects or the celebrities, in this case.

Zachary with portraits-001 (Jan 14) (2)

To create the bacteriographs, Copfer starts with a digital photograph and converts it into a halftone or an image made entirely of dots. Then, through a secret method, Copfer creates a negative using the image. The negative is placed over the petri dish and Copfer shoots radiation through the negative to burn away bacteria in the shape of the image. The image is then placed in an incubator where the bacteriograph slowly emerges in a course of 48 hours.

In a press release, Copfer said,

It’s been great to have been given the chance to get involved with The Big Bang Fair. I’m particularly excited that my work will be a big part of the Fair’s central aim to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers – and hope that my work will not only help get young people excited about science but that it will also encourage them to apply the scientific knowledge they gain in fun and unique ways.

Copfer is the only one who practices this kind of art and the Big Bang Fair will be the first time his art work is presented in the UK.


Stephen Fry is joined by other famous folks like the Spamalot stars, presenters of Absolute Genius, Dick & Dom, Kieron Richardson of Hollyoaks, and Bang Goes the Theory presenter and TV personality Liz Bonnin in creating the unique art works. The celebrities will receive their own bacteriography portrait as a gift for participating.

All portraits will be featured in a free public exhibit at Millennium Point in Birmingham from February 15th to the 24th. They will also be on display at The Big Bang Fair, which will be held at the NEC in Birmingham from March 13th to the 16th.

View more images of the bacteriographs in the gallery below.

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair


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