Whitespotted Greenling, © Adam Summers
On display at the Seattle Aquarium through Spring 2014, is a stunning series of scientifically prepared marine life transformed into photographic art by University of Washington professor Dr. Adam P. Summers. His subject matter was chosen from the university’s marine lab library which houses hundreds of water born species specially treated to allow their stained skeletal tissues to become visible through skin and flesh upon submersion in glycerin.
Scalyhead Sculpin, © Adam Summers
Leopard Shark, © Adam Summers
The Dr. describes the treatment processes; “The technique uses two vital dyes – Alcian Blue to stain cartilaginous elements a deep blue and Alizarin Red S to turn mineralized tissue crimson. The specimen is then lightly bleached with hydrogen peroxide to remove dark pigments, leaving a snow-white fish. Flesh is dissolved with Trypsin, a digestive enzyme [which] attacks most proteins but does not harm collagen, the principle fibrous material that holds the skeleton and skin together. In order to make the skin and remaining connective tissue invisible the entire specimen is immersed in glycerin. The index of refraction of collagen is very similar to that of glycerin, so the flesh seems to disappear. If you return the specimen to water the collagen will turn white again and the skeleton will be hidden.”
Pacific Cod, © Adam Summers
Spiny Lumpsucker, © Adam Summers
Choosing his muses based on a criteria of aesthetic appeal and data richness, Summers created his 14 piece series by placing his glycerin submerged subjects on an LED light table, carefully posing and then photographing them.
Little Skate, © Adam Summers
Butterfly Ray, © Adam Summers
Each photograph in the Cleared: the Art of Science exhibit is printed in archival inks on an aluminum plate in a limited edition of five. Contact Dr. Adam Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org for availability and price. The works are also available as small prints. Photo production was done by Ilya Brook and writer Sierra Nelson was commissioned to create a custom poem to accompany each fishy piece.