5. Stuart Kuhn

My interest in taking part in this trip stemmed from my ongoing project related to mercury pollution and cetaceans.

In May 2014 I began an arts council funded collaboration with scientists at the chemistry department of Aberdeen University. My aim was to produce Daguerreotype photographic plates using mercury extracted from the marine environment. The daguerreotype is a photographic method that was introduced in 1839 and is a positive image that forms on a highly polished silver plate. During the project test plates were produced using very small quantities of mercury. The worked achieved so far is a proof of concept and aims to show that mercury pollution has reached such high levels, that photo chemistry and image formation is even possible using only the toxic load from one individual cetacean. The extraction attempt from pilot whale and dolphin liver was not successful, probably due to the fat content of the tissue, so new methodologies will be attempted.


Through the same arts council funding I created a film about the expedition from Iceland to Sweden. My interest was in the coming together of art and science and the impact of cross cutting collaboration on such a voyage.

The salt print was the invention of William Henry Fox Talbot and allowed the creation of positive prints from glass and paper negatives. This kind of photography grew independently from the Daguerreotype process and began the negative/positive method that shaped the modern world. Whether the modern digital images we take these days describe the world more closely or are a better analogue of the subjects they depict, I don’t know. I brought some of that world back with me in the form of these sea water samples and will be using them to produce salt prints. Each sample of water, used to make an image, will also be sent away for chemical analysis. I would like to present the data and images together and explore how minute changes in chemistry could influence the visual characteristics of the images created.  With this kind of photography I want to explore new ways of thinking about analogues.

S Kuhn salt print
This arts council funded work also included the production of a film about art science collaboration and revealed some of the experiences the artists had on the trip.




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