Like many renowned scientists, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr Richard Feynman also dabbled in the arts along side studying quantum physics. He once spoke about how an artist friend would say that edike artists could look at a flower and marvel at its beauty, a scientist n like him will disintegrate it and change it into a dull thing.
It is this philosophy that Pune-based technocrat Yogendra Joshi and his ilk seem to identify with. This would explain their interest in a niche art form called crystal micro photography (or photo crystal micrography). A perfect amalgamation of art and science, it essentially involves taking photos of a thin layer of crystals formed on a glass slide with the help of a microscope and cross-polarised light.
The artist can make use of the right compounds and play around with the lighting to produce whatever image they have in mind – anything from kaleidoscopic patterns, landscapes to man-made structures and everything in between. Joshi has been experimenting withmacrophotography for over a decade now, having taken photos of insects and high-speed water drop collisions. In fact, he taught these art forms to many students through workshops and publications.
His brush with micro photography happened when he was reading through the categories of an international photography competition a few years ago. When the pandemic disrupted his weekly outdoor photography, he decided to take up crystal microphotography in March 2020. “I needed to get a microscope, but I started with the most basic compounds I could find around me: salt, sugar, citric acid, sherbet powder and even human tears,” he says.
He loved what he saw under the microscope, and started looking for virtual communities interested in micro photography. That's when he got in touch with Netherlands based Loes Modderman who not only encouraged Joshi but also became his mentor.
Another person who got into the art form after facing the difficulty of continuing the hobby of capturing insects on frame due to the lock down is Yavatmal-based Shyam Rathod. A deputy engineer with MAHATRANSCO, he had been into astronomy but got tired of lugging around heavy equipment, and macro photography suited him just fine. He also got acquainted with his international peers which led him to a Facebook group where he would post his photos. Loes happened to be in that group, where she introduced Rathod to Joshi.
Rathod experimented with chemicals such as paracetamol and urea. Being located in a rural area was an advantage for him when he was pursuing macro photography. “Being a working professional, I can't spend a lot of time on this hobby. Despite this, I want to continue to learn and refine my art,” he says.
Rathod has persevered withthehelp of Joshi as well as his dentistfriend Dr Hiroj Bagde from Nagpur, who also took up the art form eventually. As a medical practitioner, he had easy access to chemicals which helped him develop his art. Starting with a salt solution, he has graduated to using sulphuric acid. “Trial and error is the best learning method for this art,” he says. While it might sound like an expensive hobby to pursue, Bagde insists that this perception is not true. One only needs to invest in a microscope, the base model for which costs Rs 10,000. Polarisation filters that are used in cameras are needed to make the necessary changes in the lens of the microscope. Photos can be clicked with a phone camera. “You can just start with what you have. Not even knowledge of science is needed to start this hobby,” he says.