Johns Hopkins Magazine
A P R I L 1 9 9 8 I S S U E
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
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