For this series, I’m looking for scientist lomographers in the community. I’ll try to let you get to know them better through a series of interviews and their favorite photos.
Name: Mathias Verduyckt
Location: Leuven, Belgium
Occupation: PhD student, molecular biology/cell biology
Let’s start with an easy one. How did you begin with lomography?
I guess the first time I got into contact with Lomo is when I saw pictures of Johnny Knoxville from Jackass using the Spinner 360. I had never seen anything like it and I really loved it, but at the time it kinda slipped my mind after a while. But a while later my girlfriend at the time bought herself a Diana Mini. At first I was a bit skeptical about the entire analogue thing, but yeah, some cool results came out of it, and around that time the gallery store in Antwerp opened its doors, and not long after that I got myself a Spinner 360. Had lots of fun with it, and I was hooked.
As for science, did you know as a child that your place was in the lab?
Umm. Not really, I think. I mean, I did have an interest in the world, but I had an interest in a LOT of things. When I went to university, I basically picked biology out of a number of other things I liked doing and went along with it. I did my master in molecular biology, and I was offered a PhD position in the lab where I did my master thesis, so once again I just ran with it. I could have ended up in a completely different place and still be happy about it, but I ended up in the lab. It’s a lab using yeast cells as a study organism with two groups, one is more focused on basic cell signaling in response to available nutrients, the other is making humanized cell models for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson, I’m in the second one.
Tell us about your daily life. Have you ever taken your cameras to school or to your workplace?
I have actually yeah, sometimes I had a camera along with me, our lab is located in a pretty cool park, so I’ve taken a photography break outside a couple of times. And obviously people get interested when they see these less-than-normal cameras, so they’ve been passed around by the people in the lab. One time I shot some pictures in the lab itself, I had to do a late experiment one night (these yeast cells, sometimes the bastards just refuse to grow quickly enough, which means I end up going back to the lab at night) and took some close up shots of lab equipment with my Fisheye Baby 110.
And last year we went to a congress in Rome, I had brought my Spinner 360 and got a couple of my colleagues on a picture in the Colosseum.
Have you dared to do some crazy experiments with your cameras and films, inspired by a topic you have worked on?
I got to say that these yeast cells are not the best subjects for analogue photography. But, yeah, I am kinda intrigued by this development equipment we’ve got, it is sometimes used to develop some kind of film used for protein detection, using X-ray film chemicals. I have tried to find what these chemicals would do on normal film, without success, so I should just try to develop some photos in there, no idea whether it would work… Could be cool. Recently, I also used some chemicals to try and get coloured sparks for steel wool lightpainting shots, but without a lot of success, I published an article about that particular adventure here.
Whether it was done in a lab or not, can you show us your most scientific and experimental picture?
Well, if we are talking about analogue, it’ll probably be one of those steel wool shots with chemicals, even though you don’t see any effect from the chemicals. But if we forget about analogue for a moment, I’ve taken quite a bit of photos using a fluorescence microscope, so that checks out for scientific and experimental, right?
Now, let’s get a bit philosophical. What connection do you see between science and analogue photography – apart from the chemistry of developing?
Well, for me at least, both involve some degree of trial and error. You have an idea, you try something, it might not be completely successful or even fail completely. So you evaluate what happened, you discuss with people who share your interests, you improve your working method and try again. On another level, I suppose both require a sense of wonder and a slightly different way of looking at the world. I sometimes hear people saying that science takes away the magic from the world, because we’re trying to understand everything, but I completely disagree with that, some things that have been discovered are so amazing that it almost has a certain hint of being magic. I mean, silly example perhaps, but did you know you have proteins with two ‘legs’ walking across tiny cables throughout your cells, delivering molecules to the right places? It’s like a miniature factory, with tiny trains going all over the place, how cool is that?
I think you can have the same discussion about photography; people will argue that looking for photo opportunities all the time will ruin the actual moment (and in some extent I do agree with that), but on the other side, photography can enable you to look at the world through a different perspective and discover beauty other people wouldn’t notice.
Finally, do you have any other analogue hobby?
I actually have no idea of what constitutes an analogue hobby. I play the drums, and I don’t have an electronic kit, so I suppose that’s somewhat analogue? I go wall climbing, I like to get a drink with my friends, I like to travel. I don’t know, you decide whether all that counts as analogue.
What about you? Are you a LomoScientist in hiding? Contact me and introduce yourself to the rest of the community!