Fish, from the inside out

Here’s an intriguing perspective on your fishbowl friends.

These artistic photographs give us an interesting and beautiful look at the inner structures of these aquatic animals.

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Photograph by Adam Summers.

Creator Dr. Adam Summers has made the photoset accessible to the public, placing the images on display at the Seattle Aquarium.

The exhibit, called Cleared: The Art of Science Photography, features 14 large-format photographic prints of fish specimens that were specially stained with dyes to make their skeletal tissues brightly stand out.

Each image is supplemented by poetry by Sierra Nelson.

With the help of longtime friend Ilya Brook, Summers re-shot and digitally manipulated his images through the use of Photoshop, this time with an artistic intent rather than his usual scientific approach.

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Summers, “The Fabulous Fish Guy,” who was a science consultant for the film Finding Nemo, observes that what makes these images so fetching is the almost unlimited level of detail in the aquatic bodies.

“The images allow you to look really, really, really closely but they also allow you to step back and sort of appreciate a large form. To get to that level of fractal detail is somehow viscerally appealing to people,” said Summers.

The key to creating these outstanding fish prints? It’s all in the technique. Two dyes are used to highlight the many bones in the interior of the animal: Alcian blue for the cartilaginous parts, and Alziarin red for the mineralized tissue that has become hard, like bone.

After that, the fish are lightly bleached with peroxide and an intestinal enzyme is used to dissolve flesh. The animal is then placed in glycerin, which makes them transparent.

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A little bit of work with a huge payoff- the mesmerizing and unexpected look at our underwater friends.

“It was completely suprising,” said Summers. “To take pictures that are not intentionally scientific has been great fun.”

The exhibit will run until Spring 2014 at the Seattle Aquarium.

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