Above are stunning images of food stuffs taken by photographer Caren Alpert. Using a tool that most photographers are unfamiliar with, an electron microscope, Caren worked with technicians to obtain the images in her series Terra Cibus (etymology from Latin for “land” and “food”). Land and food are linked in ways that are obvious at scales we are used to. (EG: Why an American would eat so much beef: we have all that land, while a native of Japan might eat more seafood: they have all that ocean.) What’s surprising about Caren’s images (can we call microscopy photography?) is how similar some of these foodscapes are to much larger landscapes. In her own words: “I’ve made a living over the last decade capturing mostly recognizable images of food. Now I want to show what is there, but what we never actually see: landscapes, patterns and textures that ignite a completely different response from the viewer.” Can you guess the foods above?
Fun fact about how sensitive electron microscopes are: poorly placed elevators or air conditioners that cause even the slightest structural vibration can render them useless. I had always wondered where the colors in electron microscopy come from, but it turns out to be less scientific than I imagined. It turns out that Electron Microscopes produce only back and white images and the color is added through something like Photoshop.
For the curious, the foods above, on order, are: sugar, brussel sprouts, chocolate cake, and at the very bottom: table salt. This is the first time that images from electron microscopes have made me drool.