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Material Incubator

Powered by Caradt, MNEXT and Delft University of Technology

Unlearning Photography: Listening to Cyanobacteria

A Caradt BAD Research Project

Research Professor(s):

Dr. Elvin Karana – Research Professor Biobased Art and Design

Principle Investigator(s):

Risk Hazekamp – PD Researcher at Avans Caradt Biobased Art and Design


Project Period

1 June 2023 – 1 June 2028

Research Group Biobased Art and Design (BAD)

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.


Toxicity and analogue photography are intimately linked: non-degradable chemical compounds are used in almost all analogue processes. Photography is entangled with toxicity not only through its chemical production processes, but also through the dominant socio-political power structures and harmful norms of defining, categorising, and creating the visible.

This research is an exploration into the complex ways in which these dynamics of power and privilege are shaped. In search of a way out of these toxic histories, I investigate alternative photographic methodologies, to envision the world without a camera, through a non-chemical production process, and with a non-human gaze.

Therefore, I propose a new approach to photography, a change in attitude to make photography more horizontal, where I as a photographer am no longer in control of the actual image, but rather create the circumstances in which photographic images can evolve.

I found my ideal interlocutor in Cyanobacteria, the first organisms to release large quantities of oxygen in the atmosphere. In fact, we humans would not be here if it were not for them. As “inventors” of the oxygen-generating photosynthetic process, Cyanobacteria have shaped the evolution of respiration on our shared planet. Little by little, they made Earth inhabitable for humans. What can we learn from our ancient Cyanobacteria ancestors?

This research takes place in the interstices between photography, BioArt, and decoloniality. I introduce a decolonial, queer/feminist, intersectional perspective into the domains of BioArt and photography, to deepen these domains in terms of ethics through identifying possible blind spots, (hopefully) including my own.

It is my aim to create a ‘living micro-organic photographic process’ that continuously converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and releases oxygen (O2): a breathing artwork in which transformation is the image, and the result is always in progress.