Craig Ward Creates Prints of Bacteria Found in NYC Subways

Posted On Tue, November 17, 2015 By

Posted On Tue, November 17, 2015 By In Art, City Living

E. Coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and mold (the big fuzzy blobs) on the D train

Last February, 6sqft reported on a research project from Weill Cornell Medical College that mapped the DNA found on the New York City subway, which was said to include bubonic plague and anthrax. The scientists eventually reneged on their alarming findings, but little did they know that a Brooklyn-based artist was picking up where they left off. While riding the train this past summer, Craig Ward “saw a fellow photo­grapher’s image of bacteria cultured from her son’s handprint,” according to New York magazine. Fascinated by how it related to the urban myth that “when you hold on to the subway railings, you shake hands with 100 people all at once,” he embarked on a project to ride all 22 subway lines, collecting bacteria samples from poles and seats. What resulted is this strangely beautiful “Subvisual Subway” print series of everything from salmonella to Staphylococcus aureus.

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art

“As soon as you start taking out scientific equipment and petri dishes, people did start to look a bit,” Ward told New York. But no one really challenged me. You can get away with most things on the subway.”

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art
E. coli, salmonella (the beige colonies), Micrococcus luteus, and Bacillus subtilis on the G train

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art
Sample from the Times Square shuttle; contains E. coli (the pink and red blotches), salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art
Staphylococcus aureus and Micrococcus luteus on the 7 train

If you look closely at the prints, you’ll notice that the bacteria in each petri dish was arranged to look like the letter of the subway line from which it was taken. Ward took the samples using sterilized sponges that were cut into the letter or number of the train. The petri dishes themselves are also color coordinated to the line.

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria artE. coli, Micrococcus luteus (bright-yellow colonies), and Bacillus subtilis on the F train

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art
E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus (white/light yellow colonies), and Bacillus subtilis on the B train

What’s interesting is that to a blind eye, harmless bacteria (like the Micrococcus luteus seen above that’s a normal component of saliva and sweat) and dangerous bacteria (like the Staphylococcus aureus seen above that causes skin infections and food poisoning) are indistinguishable.

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art

Craig Ward, subway bacteria, Subvisual Subway, bacteria art

The prints are available as single subway lines or clusters; to pre-order them, visit Craig Ward’s shop here >>

[Via NY Mag]

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All images via Craig Ward

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