Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
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APRIL 1998

Johns Hopkins Magazine

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Sam Kittner (cover photo) is a photographer based in Takoma Park, Maryland. Visit his website at Or send him e-mail at [email protected].
Stephen Spartana ("What's Weird Here") is a Baltimore photographer who can be reached by phone at 410/945-2173. Visit his website at
Melissa Grimes ("The ABC's of the RDA") is an illustrator based in San Francisco, California. She can be reached by phone at 415/661-4442.
Jay Van Rennselaer (see photos throughout the In Short sections) heads up the pathology photo lab on the Homewood campus. He can be reached there at 410/516-5332.
Illustrator Kevin O'Malley (see "Essay") can be reached in Baltimore at 410/377-4582.
Illustrator Bruno Paciulli (see Science & Technology and Humanities In Shorts) can be reached in Baltimore at 410/323-5687.
Photographer Norm Barker ("Ancient Microworlds") is assistant director of the School of Medicine's Department of Photography. He can be reached via e-mail at: [email protected]. His collaborator, Giraud Foster, recently retired from the School of Medicine's faculty. (See paragraphs below.)

In the mid-1980s, shortly after Giraud Foster (right) agreed to write a book on ancient jewelry, he approached Norman Barker for help in coming up with a system of scanning light microscopy that would allow the jewelry to be photographed in focus, even when greatly magnified. The two men started practicing on fossils--and were amazed by the exquisite color and abstract forms of the images that emerged ("Ancient Microworlds") "We're very impressed by what nature's done," says Barker, who together with Foster mounted a recent exhibit of their work at the Gomez Gallery in Baltimore.

While both are avid photographers, their professional interests vary. The recently retired Foster spent a long career at the School of Medicine in obstetrics-gynecology, biochemistry, and archaeology. Barker (MS '85) is an assistant professor of art as applied to medicine, and of pathology, and the assistant director of the School of Medicine's Department of Photography. He's also a six-time winner of Nikon's Small World Contest.

The two photographers use a diamond saw to slice ultra-thin layers of fossil, then photograph most of them under oil to reduce surface imperfections and dust ("We have a terrible problem with air bubbles!" says Foster). They magnify each object to 50 times its original size, and experiment with lenses and lighting to create images of varying color and pattern. Not every attempt pans out, but sometimes they hit gold.

Says Barker, "We are amazed by the painterly quality of some of our images." Viewed together, they present "a visual brio of colors, shapes, and compositions." --SD