Inner Space Adventures

In my previous blog post I introduced Mitochondria and Mitochondrial Disease, as the area of scientific research that I have been concerned with during my commission at Newcastle University. If you haven’t read it this is a good place to start and you will find a bit of information and some short films about Mitochondria, Mitochondrial Disease and some of the engagement work that Newcastle University have already carried out. Check out my previous blog post here.

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As previously mentioned in my last post I was tasked by Newcastle Universities Medical School to visit their Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease research. When I began this process I wasn’t aware of how important Mitochondria are and the devastating affects that Mitochondrial Disease can have on people who have it. I also wasn’t aware of the pioneering research that was going on in the North East right on my doorstep. You can find out more about this research by looking at the Wellcome Trust Centers website here.

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As with work that I have carried out before I was keen to use my microscopy experience to create a body of work that could be exhibited in a variety of locations in the North East. Discussions with Newcastle University made it clear that we had a common goal, to highlight the research, the human impact of this disease and to reach wider audiences.

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Even in the formative stages when I was in a little dark room with a very expensive microscope I was evaluating how this work could be transformed, displayed and disseminated.

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The big challenge for me during this process was the lack of availability of human specimens due to the Human Tissue Act but that is a whole other story. This was a big disappointment for the progression of the work, but in order for the project to be completed successfully a flexible and adaptable approach was essential. And I must stress that the team I was working with were very accommodating and tried everything they could to resolve this issue. I think this highlighted for me, at the very early stages, that I would need to find a way of communicating the human element without the microscopy being the primary focus.

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As you will see from the images so far they are bright and colourful and have such beautiful structure, form and composition. I find the process of using a microscope to photograph absolutely wonderful. You feel as though you are an explorer, travelling through inner space and looking for that magic moment when you will find the exact detail that you want to capture. With each microscope that I work with I am very much reliant on the technical support that is available. And the technician that I worked with was extremely helpful and supportive even though he was running an extremely busy facility.

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The images above are a snap shot of the work that I produced in the Microscopy suite that can be found within the Medical School at Newcastle University. Having previously photographed plant specimens, I definitely have seen some visual similarities between plant, mouse and human specimens that I photographed over the last year.

One of the resources that I have found very useful has been via the website that Newcastle University have already produced. The Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research website gives you a great insight into the projects that they have carried out, the continued engagement, the research team and their focus, the science behind the research and forthcoming events and developments in the Mito world.

My next blog post will explore the patient engagement sessions and how this informed a very emotive element of the project. It was wonderful working with people directly affected by the disease and the medical advances that are being made at Newcastle University.

This commission was funded by NICAP (Newcastle Institute of Creative Practice and Engage FMS. More details about NICAP can be found here.And it was supported by The Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research.

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