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Journeys in Microspace: The Art of the Scanning Electron Hardcover – 28 Nov 1995


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Review

" "Journeys in Microspace" is a dandy." -- "The Review of Arts Literature, Philsophy and the Humanities"

From the Author

Personal anecdotes about the creation of this book.
Greetings to all who are interested in this book, especially those who usually think science is beyond your reach. It isn't! At its best it's fascinating and exciting and beautiful, as I try to convey through my collection of images from the microworld. I enjoyed every moment of the two intense years I spent preparing these micrographs for publication, mostly after work on nights and weekends. I spent the first year taking the pictures on the SEM and the second year printing them the old fashioned way: in the darkroom. I'm getting pretty good at the computer now, though, and have taken over the rewarding job of retouching and color-enhancing them myself. (Electron micrographs start out in black and white because the images are created by electrons, which don't convey color.) My SEM was (and still is) a valient old Cambridge Mark 2. On its installation in 1982 it was the latest and best technology available and it's served a lot of cutting edge science in its time. The research has covered a wide range of disciplines, including all the earth sciences plus the fields of biomedical research, chemical and civil engineering, materials science, and many more. Running the scope for the researchers has been a terrific creative and learning experience for me that I always wanted to share, which is why I published this book. Here's a for-instance from behind the scenes: One fall morning I plucked some fragments of goldenrod growing outside my house and brought them with me to work, at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisdes New York. In one of my spare moments I prepared them for the SEM and spent some time looking at them, surveying the scene at low magnification and zooming in on interesting bits for closer inspection. At one point I saw something very tiny that was glowing brightly and zoomed in on it out of curiosity. I discovered that a pollen grain was sitting on some kind of stalk at the edge of a flower petal. I've seen lots of pollen, folks, but never on a pedestal, so I took a few pictures. In my innocence I figured that this is the way some pollen is attached to the plant before the wind or a passing animal carries it away. Wrong! I printed one of the shots and took it to a botonist, who got all excited. It seems that this is what happens when pollen LANDS on a viable surface! When a grain lands, it sends out a chemical message saying, "What did I land on?" If the answer comes back, "You landed on a female part of your own species," the pollen grain grows a long tube through the petal and down into the ovary of the flower in order to fertilize it. What luck to capture this happening on film! I was so tickled by this image that I used it to open Chapter 5 (Portraits), on page 130. It's been lots of fun for me and I hope you'll enjoy looking at these images as much as I had producing them. Thanks for your interest, and if you'd like to have a chat please email me at micro@ldeo.columbia.edu.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x936451f8) out of 5 stars 1 review
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93f8adf0) out of 5 stars Its a Small World 9 April 2000
By Stuart Klipper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The work that Ms. Breger present in her electrifying and illuminating book spans that twilight zone between photography made with purely aesthetic vision and imagery made for the purposes of scientific investigation. For my part, if a type of imagery carries a wonderful vision and powerful presence no matter what precincts it hales from, it warrants serious and critical attention.
The photographs in this book come from a visual realm that roughly parallels Egerton, Nilsson, et al. It is work made with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).
Whether or not you are familiar with this imaging technology -- its processes and procedures are not all that recondite, is not overly material as they are really not actually at issue.. The rendering though, is. The end product if done in the hands of an expert, as Dee Breger has wide renown for being, is in a rich, etched -- in effect, and extremely beguiling continuous-tone sharply scaled monotone.
The photographs focus mainly on exo-skeletal microorganisms and organic and inorganic microstructures. That's what you look at when you view one of these sorts of images -- and they are very arresting and strangely alluring ones indeed. The identifiability of subject matter is not in itself, I feel, the source of their quite haunting power. And, it is indeed arguable as to how critical the related data is, interesting as many , including myself, would find it.
The subject matter goes beyond naming and claiming. It is about the enigmatic nature of the fundamental, and the inchoate, the substrates of experience. Platonisn (Neo- & Oldo-), in one form or another, is the operant mode in this sort of representation. The subsuming issues are epistemological in addition to the esthetic and experiential.
Photographically, Dee's antecedents, on one hand, might be Blossfeld and Regner-Patzch -- the Platonisn thing. And, other the other hand, Weston and Strand (The thing itself -- the world being intrinsically more interesting that what anyone can say about it...). Strong resonances too with the archetypal inventories of the Bechers and the mysterious little chthonic worlds of Chiarenza.
That's more than enough for the high falutin' stuff. I guess the brass tacks of the matter is that these images are point blankly speaking, striking They bear a drama, mystery and presence that definitely command the attention of both a general inquisitive audience and those critically interested in photography, how ever unusual or unexpected its manifestation.
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