A Micrographer (pronounced like photographer) refers to a photographer who uses a microscope as their medium. Through a variety of optical and experimental techniques, we bring to life the hidden world all around us. But we hope at this point you're wondering: What's actually being shown in each print?
Crystallography is a branch of science that leads to gorgeous visuals under the microscope. In simple terms, we mix together solutions of various substances and use lab techniques to form crystals from the solutions.
Salt is an easy example for some DIY science:
Go in your kitchen and mix a spoonful of salt with twice as much water. This is a salt-water solution. Kind of like our oceans. Now let it dry on any surface. And that's it. Your crystallography experiment complete! But, you might be looking at your dried salt-water and thinking, "How are Micrographer's images colorful?".
Birefringence sounds like an intimidating word, but it's the science behind our images' vibrant color palette.
Here's the gist: We've all seen light through glass, such as the sun through a window. Not too special, right? Birefringence is a unique case in which light is bent when it passes through a material (i.e. glass) in a very specific [and fairly complex] manner. This distortion changes the light waves in a way that alters its physical properties and sometimes results in beautiful colors.
So what causes the light to bend? The unique arrangement of atoms in the materials the light is passing through.
Here's a thought-experiment to explain what we mean:
Imagine looking down at a field of perfectly groomed grass. The grass is sticking straight up and you can probably see through to the ground in some spots.
If you slowly poured a bucket of water directly on top of the grass, the water would pass straight through and hit the soil -- for the most part. Now, imagine a
strong gust of wind blew over the grass. At this point, all you see are the sides of each blade of grass. If we poured water on top of the grass again, the
path to the ground wouldn't be as direct. In fact, the water stream will likely split into several directions before reaching soil.
The same is true for these 'birefringent' materials. Light gets distorted and splits due to the 'blockages' caused by some material's complex atomic structures. The result: Art!
So, what's special about this?
The highs and lows of science become crystal clear on this side of microscopy. Some materials crystallize easily, many don't altogether, and others require extraordinary time, patience, and acuity as an experimentalist. We agree that something simple like salt is mildly interesting and produces nice images. However, we embrace the challenge of producing images that stray from scientific norms. Whether it be cocktails, beauty products, or workout supplements; we hope to show you the world we share from a new perspective.
Micrographer is the brainchild of Matt Femia, a computational biologist and ex-"wet-lab"-scientist. He spent 7+ years in research labs split between Cornell University, William & Mary, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Over the years, he's logged over 4000 machine hours on microscopes, published his research in the world's top academic journals, and contributed to the development of new and promising immunotherapy treatments for breast cancer patients.
While living in a shoe-box sized apartment in Manhattan, Femia's first steps were taken with launching the Micrographer. Here, he built his first microscope [of many] using a combination of new 3D-printed parts paired with spare parts from medical microscopes still around from the 1980s. A handful of his earliest prints were captured on this model and shared throughout the city. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was presented with the opportunity to spend more time taking photos and developing the business. Then, in 2021, the Micrographer was born.
I hope to offer you more than another static piece of art to mount on your wall. These prints are rooted in memories from my life and hope to find meaning in your own. If nothing else, share in the joy of seeing the aesthetic world beneath our eyes and continue to form connections with your own experiences through our art.
- Matt Femia, Founder & Owner, The Micrographer LLC