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EXTRACTION:
Art on the Edge of the Abyss.

- Air

Linked to various physical and mental health issues like asthma or dementia, toxic air affects nearly everyone: 90% of the world’s population lives in places where pollution levels are above the World Health Organization’s recommended limits. While the issue is worse in South and East Asia, all metropolises are affected globally and London is not exempt.

This year marks the centenary of air particle measurement in the UK, begun in the 1920s by the Air Ministry Meteorological Office. In the past four years, pollution levels within central London have decreased, but a quarter of its roads still exceed the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide (mostly produced by diesels) and millions of Londoners continue to breathe polluted air.

This work aims to visualise this ‘invisible killer’ by creating images of toxic fine particles. In collaboration with scientists from Imperial College London, who manage the London Air Quality Network, I gathered samples from several monitoring sites in inner and outer London that measure carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide. The samples were collected and magnified through two different procedures: some were deposited onto a tape using a Beta Attenuation Monitoring device, and then photographed through a microscope, others were enlarged digitally through Raman spectroscopy.

I then made cyanotypes out of the resulting closeup images of particulate matter. One of the oldest photographic techniques, cyanotype printing consists in coating a paper with a photosensitive emulsion, placing an object or a photograph negative on it and exposing it to sunlight. The cyan-blue tone of the pictures is reminiscent of pure, cloudless skies; and I used Philippine Yuki Gampi paper, whose handmade, thin and delicate sheets evoke the lightness of air itself.

This series was created as part of the Sustainable Darkroom Residency, organised by the London Alternative Photography Collective, and would not have been possible without the support and help of Paul Johnson, Laura Buchanan, Dr Stephanie Wright and Joseph Levermore, from the Environmental Research Group, part of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London.

 

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Sprygg is a Gildedsplinters project
© 2020 Gildedsplinters All rights reserved

where artists, technologists and communities gather to inspire Acts of Genius
where artists, technologists and communities gather to inspire Acts of Genius

Sprygg is a Gildedsplinters project
© 2020 Gildedsplinters All rights reserved