WORKS – Micro-Landscapes, Macro-Tissues by Hiba Farran

In ALL, WORKS by Julia Krolik

Canadian-based graphic designer and artist Hiba Farran combines stunning Icelandic landscapes with aesthetically similar microscopic imagery in her work Micro-Landscapes, Macro-Tissues.

“A visual reading, at the intersection of Science and Art: the communication of scientific data through a photographic narrative of two distinct journeys into the tissues of life, one on a macro scale in Iceland, and the other one on a microscopic scale at the SVA NATLAB in New York.” – Hiba Farran

Can you describe how you got the idea to pair microscopic images with landscape photography?

During my BioArt summer residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I experimented with microscopic photography, taking random and spontaneous pictures of micro-organisms under the lens of my microscope. I tried various sections and technical features throughout this photographic process. Once done with ‘the fun of it’, I looked at all the shots at once, when it occurred to me that I had previously seen similar textures and visual compositions in spontaneous snapshots of landscapes I had taken a few years back during a trip to Iceland. The pairing wasn’t preconceived, at least at first, and the matching was a happy coincidence. Soon enough, I found myself trapped in a mesmerizing and exciting visual exercise of matching micro and macro tissues of life.

Image information: Landscapes – Digital Photography, Iceland, 2012 | Micro-organisms – Digital Microscopy, SVA NATLAB, New York, 2014

left: Pine young ovulate section – RIVERS
right: Stream and rocks at Landmannalaugar – STREAMS

left: Mammal skeletal muscle section – MUSCULAR POWER
right: Mountains at Landmannalaugar – MOVING GRACE(1)

What was the most difficult part of your creative process?

The process of cropping the images to the desired sections was a task that demanded attention and a critical eye. Cropping the snapshots was my personal intervention on the photos, it was ‘my say’ in the similarities that I found. Whereas taking the snapshots themselves was an un-calculated, almost accidental process driven by my curiosity of similarities between micro and macro shots.

Composing these pairs of photos felt like writing a statement, highlighting a finding, telling a story, showing evidence. Highlighting in visual art what the scientific images ‘spoke of’ felt like revealing hidden meanings. I had to find the right balance between the art and the science of this process.

left: Physarum Sclerotium section – SATELLITE VIEW (2)
right: Skaftafell National Park – LANDING (2)

left: Physalia tentacle section – OSMOSIS
right: River section around Dettifoss Waterfalls – OSMOSIS

left: Pine young ovulate section – RIVERS
right: Stream and rocks at Landmannalaugar – STREAMS

What surprised you the most when you first started exploring microscopic images?

Surely what surprised me the most was the amount of details I could see under the microscope. It felt like seeing another dimension of life, a revelation of secrets, reading an inscription that coded the matter of life, one code that underlines macro-landscapes and micro-tissues.

This comparison blurred the line between living/non-living organisms. Rocks and mountains have a life of their own, and just like micro-organisms throughout their formations and textures speak a coded language.

left: Pine young ovulate cone section – STRATIFIED
right: Rock formation on Reynisfjara beach – STRATA

left: Pteridium Rhizome section – LEFTOVERS
right: Ciff on the Vatnsnes Peninsula – LEFTOVERS

Would you consider a follow-up series exploring other countries given the diverse geological composition of our planet? 

I guess the message behind this project is the universality of life; a one structural organization of things that underlies all existence. It doesn’t matter whether the landscapes were those in Iceland or elsewhere, or whether the micro-shots are those of these specific micro-organisms. The message would remain the same. However, a deeper exploration of this line of thought would be to explore unity, or difference, beyond structural features in the process of how things are generated. I am now interested in comparing identical or different threads of generation, instead of end results.

left: Physalia tentacle section – SATELLITE VIEW (1)
right: Bottom of snowy mountains and sheep – LANDING (1)

left: Physalia tentacle section – MICRO-GIGANTIC (2)
right: Skaftafellsjokull glacier – JUST MACRO (2)

left: Physalia tentacle section – MICRO-GIGANTIC
right: Melting ice on mountains in Landmannalaugar – JUST MACRO

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About the Author

Julia Krolik

Julia helps SciArt through Art the Science, wrangles data and makes SciArt through Pixels and Plans. She speaks passionately about the importance of visual communication in information sharing. She lives by this quote: "They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea." - Francis Bacon | Twitter: @yuliakrolik