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Student Innovation to Create Photos from Bacterial Growth Is Featured on National TV

As a fine arts photography graduate student, Zachary Copfer invented a process to create realistic images from E. coli and S. marcescens bacterial growth. That process and the resulting art, previously featured by NPR and other international media, will be on March 27’s Anderson Cooper show.

Date: 3/25/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Zachary Copfer

UC ingot   The natural growth process of bacteria has led to the growth of a new artistic imaging process.
Bacteria like S. marcescens, or E. coli treated with DNA from jellyfish, can make for startling realistic images – images that depict a completely recognizable Albert Einstein or a dinosaur or rabbit or even Anderson Cooper, journalist, author and TV personality.
Zachary Copfer
UC's Zachary Copfer holds a bacteriograph image of Anderson Cooper that he made in preparation for his appearcance on "Anderson Live."

UC’s Zachary Copfer, who created the new photographic process called “Bacteriography” as part of his 2012 master’s of fine arts capstone project will appear on the Anderson Cooper show, “Anderson Live,” at 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 27, on WKRC-TV, Channel 12. (The taped interview with Copfer, 31, of Anderson Township, via Skype is taking place from the biology lab of Associate Professor Theresa Culley, since that is Copfer’s home base for conducting his artistic endeavors, which have previously been featured by,, Huffington Post and more.) 
Copfer has coined his new photographic process as “Bacteriography.” Put simply, it’s a process to develop images in plates of bacteria. That is to say, the bacteria – a living medium – literally grow to form photographic images.
Said Copfer, “As an emerging artist, attempting to make that difficult transition from grad student to professional, nothing is more exciting than the opportunity to share my work and ideas with a large audience. Really, when it comes down to it, that's what making art is all about. Taking an idea that excites me and manifesting it physically to share with others. I think the whole experience is just going to be a lot of fun.”

He explained that his work was featured in the February issue of “Reader's Digest,” where an “Anderson Live” producer saw it: “She asked me if I could make a portrait of Anderson that they could show on air. I, of course, said absolutely.”
Bacteriograph image of Anderson Cooper
Bacteriograph image of Anderson Cooper

At the same time he appears on “Anderson Live,” Copfer will launch his KickStarter fundraising project in order to create a new series of bacteriographs to show in ArtPrize this September. ArtPrize is a well known juried exhibition.