DNA Portraits: A collaboration between Portraits Photography and Molecular Biology

The DNA portrait project was a collaboration between Mr. Butler’s Molecular Biology and Ms. Patel’s Portrait Photography also known as You me and Everyone We Know. This project took off when the Molecular Biology class collected actual cheek swabs from the portrait photography students. After which the biology class processed those swabs through a process called Gel Electrophoresis which is a lab method used to separate mixtures of DNA, RNA, or proteins according to molecular size. A week later, the biology class produced a film/gel that visually displayed the DNA information specific to that person along with numerical data and a graph that refers to it.

The next step was for the portrait photography class to view the images, look at the numerical data and brainstorm to see what they may use to convert this information into visual images or portraits based in factual data. The photography class took on the challenge to use PencilCode as a tool to work on this project. Each student came up with their own way to interpret the data. Some students used the numerical data to generate colors in Photoshop, others used them to establish distance, size, shapes, pace and movement in their animated image. Each student started the project by inserting the DNA film image in the background. The interest and complexities were evident in their process as each of them produced an image that was a departure from what they would think of when they think of a DNA portrait.

Finally, both classes came together again and shared their process discussing their expectations and surprises as this collaboration came to a conclusion. For all involved it was a new experience and Mr. Butler and Ms. Patel hope to revisit this collaborate again in the future with some modifications and a better understanding of all the interdisciplinary learning elements involved.

Take a look at some examples and explanations from the students here.

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