The Burning Bush: photosynthesis observed. Photosynthesis is the process through which certain organisms synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight as an energy source. Most forms of photosynthesis also release oxygen as a by-product and consequently, in addition to being the source of energy for nearly all life on Earth, this process is also essential in maintaining the oxygen content of the atmosphere. For this series of works, I developed a novel process through which the evolution of oxygen, via photosynthesis, becomes visible and which allows us to directly witness this essential process for the first time.
Bioluminescent bacteria naturally produce an ethereal blue light. The enzyme that enables the bacteria to do this, luciferase, requires oxygen in order to be active, and consequently, if bioluminescent bacteria are starved of oxygen, whilst they are still able to grow, they will no longer produce light and will become dark. Here a culture of bioluminescent bacteria has been starved of oxygen and so has become dark. When a photosynthetically active plant is immersed in the dark oxygen starved culture of bacteria, the photosynthetic oxygen immediately stimulates light-production in the bacteria, giving a direct, unique, and beguiling visualization of this vital process.