Moscow-based artist and mold enthusiast Daria Fedorova intervenes in natural decomposition processes, accentuating textures and colors and pushing the boundaries of science and art. The artist, who works as Dasha Plesen, laces petri dishes with various bacterias and other organisms before placing extra elements like fluffy balls, sugars, and sprinkles in the container. These manufactured additions impede the growths to produce myriad shades and structures and cultivate otherworldly compositions of unnaturally saturated colors, patches of fuzz, and flared coils of slime all within in a single vessel.
Forgoing antibiotics or other treatments that would save the fungi and spores from ruin, Plesen’s works take between three and four weeks to materialize. She tells Colossal that the ongoing project began with “the idea of microbiological mapping of our surroundings,” explaining:
We are all swimming in the ocean of tiny spores and organisms, breathing them in, and carrying them on the top of our skin and inside the body. I was interested in this parallel between the physical world we can see and touch and also another physical world, which also presents, but is kind of metaphysical, invisible, somewhere between the air layers, vibrations, energies, nature.
Whether displaying stacked rows of spores or a bubbly rim, the resulting studies are ripe with questions about human imposition, the artificial, cyclical processes, and the inherent beauty of decay. Explore a larger collection of Plesen’s works on Behance and Instagram. (via Trendland)
By Jason Kirk, trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf. All images coutesy of Nikon Small World, shared with permission
Unless they were under a microscope, it would be difficult to see the shimmery barbs of a louse claw or cracks running through a single piece of table salt. The winning entries of the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition unveil these otherwise imperceptible features, showing the unique textures, colors, and shapes in stunning detail. We’ve chosen some of our favorite images below—these include the crystal-like webbing of a slime mold captured by Allison Pollack (previously), the first-prize winning glimpse of an oak leaf by Jason Kirk, and the kaleidoscopic head of a tick revealed by doctors Tong Zhang and Paul Stoodley—and you can find more from this year’s competition on the contest’s site and Instagram.
By Frank Reiser, rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse (Haematopinus suis)
By Alison Pollack, slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis)
By Saulius Gugis, table salt crystal
By Martin Kaae Kristiansen, filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix
By Sébastien Malo, vein and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius)
By Jan van IJken, water flea (Daphnia) carrying embryos and peritrichs
By Dr. Tong Zhang and Dr. Paul Stoodley, head of a tick
By Oliver Dum, the proboscis of a housefly (Musca domestica)
Alison Pollack’s preferred subjects are the tiny, inconspicuous organisms that are difficult to spot without a trained eye and microscope. The California-based photographer documents the minuscule fungi that spring from leaves and bits of bark with an extreme macro lens, exposing the rarely visible iridescent speckles, pockmarks, and feathered tissues that cover their fruiting bodies. “My goal is to reveal to people tiny mushrooms and slime molds that they might otherwise never see, or may never even have heard of,” she tells Colossal. “And also to reveal the beautiful intricate detail in these organisms.”
Although her earlier images captured the fleshy fungi in spectacular detail, Pollack has spent the last two years getting even closer to her subjects—which are often less than a millimeter tall—by using a microscope lens that magnifies her findings up to 20 times their actual size. The resulting images document even the smallest features, like individual spores, the veiny web structure encasing them, and the distinct texture and color of each organism.
Find Pollack on Instagram and Facebook to see what she spots next and to order prints of her photos. You also might enjoy this documentary about the vast underground network of mycelium that’s tied to all life on Earth.
Captured around the globe, the winning shots in the 2020 Close-Up Photographer Of The Year glimpse some of nature’s most fascinating details, from the organs inside a shimmering glass worm to slime molds bursting with fruit. Dr. Galice Hoarau, an evolutionary biologist living in Bodø, Norway, took the top prize for his image (shown below) of a serpentine eel larva spotted during a blackwater dive.
In its second year, the annual contest garnered more than 6,500 entries from 52 countries. Photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, a wife and husband duo based in the United Kingdom, launched the competition in 2018 to “encourage photographers to slow down, enjoy their craft, and make long-lasting connections with the world around them.” Explore some of Colossal’s favorite close-up, micro, and macro shots below, and dive into the top 100 images on CUPOTY’s site. (via Design You Trust)
“The Rise of Molds” plunges into the minute world of four species of fungi as they fester, sprout, and morph from spindly, white shoots into dark, dense patches. Shot by Beauty of Science (previously), the timelapse captures Rhizopus, Aspergillus Niger, Aspergillus Oryzae, and Penicillium spores with a supermacro lens, magnifying the microscopic organisms as they grow and sprawl across the screen. Each of the molds is utilized to ferment common foods, like wine and soy sauce, and to add pungent flavors to cheese. Check out Beauty of Science’s extensive library of videos chronicling chemical processes and animal life cycles on YouTube.
Biologist and author Merlin Sheldrake is using a particularly self-referential marketing strategy for his new book Entangled Life. In a recent Instagram post, Sheldrake announced the mycelium-based project’s release with an image of the text literally bursting with fungi. “Here it is being devoured by Pleurotus, or oyster mushrooms. Pleurotus can digest many things, from crude oil to used cigarette butts, and is also delicious. Now Pleurotus has eaten Entangled Life, I can eat the Pleurotus, and so eat my words,” he writes. You can purchase your own (untarnished) copy from Bookshop.