Tapeworms, leeches, lice, bedbugs, fleas, and ticks — the litany of Marcus DeSieno‘s photographic subjects is enough to cause a few paranoid itches. In the Parasites series, he combined electron microscope technology with 19th century alternative processes to face his own fears of these odious creatures that infest human bodies.
“Some of William Henry Fox Talbot‘s first images were from underneath the lens of his microscope, while John Adams Whipple strapped the new daguerreotype technology to his telescope, enabling him to record the moon and its craters in previously unseen detail,” DeSieno told Hyperallergic. “I use 19th century photographic processes in my work to create a conversation with this rich history.”
Brought to our attention by Smithsonian.com, the Parasites photographs are eerie with the green and yellow hues DeSieno purposefully concocted in the darkroom as a “noxious color palette,” and also oddly captivating with their mix of abstract, organic shapes and monstrous forms. They’re also an intriguing fusion of an obsolete technology with one on the cutting edge, revealing through the ferrotype what would be impossible to capture when the 19th century process was new.
DeSieno is pursuing an MFA at the University of South Florida, and it’s there through an electron microscope that he viewed at 300,000x size specimens collected through the National Institute of Health and Etsy. These images were turned into film positives, which in the darkroom were exposed on dry plate gelatin ferrotypes, a tintype technique. Scanned and digitally printed at four feet, “the animals confront their viewer at a one-to-one scale.”
Previously he’s experimented with viewing his own body at the cellular level with wet plate collodion negatives, interested in what photography can be in the 21st century while reflecting back on its history in science and technology. The Parasites are as much about his attempts in this experiment as getting the best angle on wormy silhouettes or spiky feelers.
“The original perimeters around this project were to confront this irrational personal fear of parasites through the role of amateur scientist, or dilettante,” he explained. “After working ￼with these animals for well over a year that fear has evaporated and transformed into an appreciation for their complexity and diversity.”
View all of Marcus DeSieno’s Parasites on his site.