Igor Siwanowicz

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If you’ve ever wondered how a diving beetle swims through the water or manages to rest just on the surface, the answer is in part because its foot is infinitely more complicated than your own. As seen in his microscopic image of a male Acilius sulcatus (diving beetle), photographer Igor Siwanowicz reveals the extraordinary complexity of this aquatic insect’s tiny appendage. This is just one of many examples of Siwanowicz’s work as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus. His brilliantly colored images show the tree-like structures of moth antennas, the wild details of barnacle legs, and the otherworldly shapes of plant spores. The photos are made with a confocal laser-scanning microscope capable of “seeing” vast amounts of detail beyond what you might capture with a traditional lens-based microscope. (http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2016/10/insect-microscopy-igor-siwanowicz/)


Two green orbs glow, separated by arcs of shimmering flecks in blue, purple, magenta, and chartreuse, on a black background. The image resembles a faraway galaxy or magical realm. In truth, it’s a fluorescence microscopy image of the eyes of a daddy longlegs spider.

Igor Siwanowicz is a scientist and photographer who captures his subjects in extreme close-up with a digital camera and creates haunting, fluorescent images of others with a confocal microscope. He aims to reveal the beauty of nature’s tiniest beasts. “People have been socialized to be afraid of and revolted by insects and spiders. But that isn’t what I see.”

His science informs his art without question, but the converse has happened as well. Intrigued by the challenge of creating a three-dimensional microscopic image of a tick’s mouth, Siwanowicz used the same technique to explore the architecture of the joints between a dragonfly’s neck and wings.

“I’ve found the perfect marriage of art and science,” he says. (https://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/spring-2013/beautiful-beasts)
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Jaak Mortelmans

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