Friday 22 May 2009

A little something to make you scratch your head!

Ten years ago our family had been victim to some persistent visitors. My wife arrived at work with the children in tow, with suspiciously wet hair.
"I have some good news and some bad news!" she greeted me.
"The bad news is that the children had caught headlice and have just been treated!"
"And the good news?" I asked.
"I kept a few for your microscope!"

I was truly grateful and made some permanent microscope slides.

Because the insects are a few millimeters long, they were difficult to photograph in focus throughout at the time using a film camera.

At last, in 2008, armed with a digital camera and modern software, I was able to revisit the slides for an new project, in preparation for Open Studios 2009.

My ambition was to photograph the head lice under polarised light, where the muscles glow in fantastic colours. Using Helicon software, I could also photograph at different focal depths and combine the images to obtain a final picture in focus throughout.

21 pictures were taken at different polarisation angles and foci to give the centre-piece picture of my Open Studios exhibition.

You can either shudder at or admire the images above taken of 2009 live (active and therefore blurred!) insects and the ones as specimens for eternity that I prepared over a decade ago with the final exhibition piece.

In 1976, Michael Andrews commented in his book "The Life that lives on Man" that at that time, there were 1.5 million "lousy" people estimated in the UK and that a survey in one industrial area in 1970 found 26% of secondary school children infected. He predicted, that despite eradication campaigns, the head louse would be with us in the future! He was right. My children's generation had them and they are thriving in the 21st Century!

You can see the print of the magically coloured Head Louse at my place as part of Open Studios this year over the first two weekends in July.

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