Photomicography of emotion.

A scientific look at everyday life in the work of Sasha R. Gregor

Ever since it was developed, photography has been closely linked to science because of its ability to create documentary visual representations of the world. With time, the descendants of that first daguerreotype surpassed humans’ perceptive abilities, and they took on a role as authentic purveyors of previously inaccessible knowledge of the nature of reality. The improvements in optics and in photosensitive materials that began in the mid-19th century allowed photography to transcend the limits of the visible world, making it possible for astronomy, biology, physics and other fields of knowledge to arrive at surprising discoveries through the use of the camera. From the infinitely large to the infinitely small, from the representation of movement to the depiction of non-luminous radiation, the images produced in the photographic medium revealed that reality was more complex, and more fascinating, than had been imagined, with photography securing its place as a valuable scientific tool and helping to shape a new era of knowledge that was predominantly instrumental.

The avant-garde artists of the 20th century, especially the Futurists, Dadaists and Surrealists, were fascinated by the visual and conceptual power of these images, and they created some of their best work under the influence of scientific photography. Painters like Balla and Duchamp were captivated by the possibility of making immaterial energy visible, while photographers of the stature of Brasaï, Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Jean Painlevé even adopted certain techniques and procedures with their origin in scientific research for the purposes of their own creations, seeking to transcend the realistic representation that was characteristic of the camera.

In the XXI century, work along these lines has begun to take the shape of a new trend that questions the traditional relationship between photographic representation and reality, which inevitably leads to a reexamination of the medium’s epistemological status, and by extension a rethinking of its very ontology and a redefinition of its role in art and society.

The artist Sasha R. Gregor, the alter ego of the Catalan photographer Roger Grasas (Barcelona 1970), is among the few Spanish artists engaged in work along these lines. After he graduated with a degree in scientific photography from the Universidad Politécnica de Catalunya, in 1997 he began a series of projects that employ the technique of photomicrography, following the trail blazed by artists like Laure Albin Guillot and György Kepes, going beyond the mere appearances of everyday life out of a desire to overcome the traditional mimetic function associated with photography. The result is his abstract images of striking beauty that are poetic explorations of the mysteries of matter and of human emotions, achieved through the surprise provoked by moving a discourse commonly associated with scientific research into the realm of art and visual creativity.

Ricard Guixá