The bleeding, abstract images of Bacteriograms are “self portraits,” in the biological sense: he created them by rubbing his own saliva on large-format, color negative film. Bacteriograms aren’t photographs of the microbes themselves — what you see if the color-stripping effect that the cultures had on the negatives. Once he applied his saliva to the film, he handed over the artistic reins to the living cultures — some of which continued to grow and morph months after his initial process.
“I wanted to have as little control over the end results as possible,” Raitanen said. “It was quite liberating just to let the process take its course.”