Optimizing Bioluminescence: choose your strain carefully


Here are three stains of the bioluminescent bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum. Identical growth conditions and growth stages, striking differences in light output. BioArtists choose your strain carefully! The upper most, and brightest strain, is the one that I use in my works. Its designation is P. phosphoreum HB (hyper bright) and it has been especially selected for its high level of bioluminescence.

Assorted Bioglyphs: infinite light

A selection of Bioglyphs generated by liquid cultures of bioluminescent bacteria. These are still images of a very dynamic phenomenon and the patterns change second to second.  I have thousands of these, and as each one is unique,  I feel like I’ve briefly glimpsed infinity.

BioPortraits: My sons, Joe and Josh

A few years ago I had an excellent collaboration with an artist called Anne Brodie in which developed the world’s most unusual photobooth. Using the booth we took portraits of people using only the ephemeral blue-green light produced by bioluminescent bacteria (100s of agar plates and 10 litres of culture). Unlike sunlight or artificial light, bacterial bioluminescence is of a pure and refined quality (a single wavelength of ~475 nm), a property that endows it with unique revelatory properties. When a human body is imaged with bacterial light, it does more than illuminate; the light is of a type that penetrates adornments, glamour, and the inconsequential surface features of the face revealing far more about the individual behind it than does the unrefined cocktail of light wavelengths that is sunlight. An example of its properties can be seen in these unique portraits of my children. Joe is usually sensible and quite studious, whilst Josh is constant blur of motion and activity.