‘Gut Flora’ – Photography and art from the gut

Microbes live on us, and with us. They don’t just make us ill – they can also protect us from infection, and keep us healthy.  Our gut is like a forest, or garden, where microbes flourish in a balanced, mini ecosystem.

This exhibition features gut bacteria, grown on colour-changing nutrient jelly plates, stamped in botanical designs. The plates also contain paper discs infused with antibiotics, which dissolve into the jelly. The images explore how bacteria found in the gut interact with antibiotics, and what this means for our health.

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These images have been created using the same techniques we use in hospitals and laboratories to study how bacteria respond to antibiotics.  Gut bacteria have been stamped in decorative patterns onto nutrient jelly (‘agar’) and left to grow overnight, then photographed. They are a collaboration between University of Oxford Scientist Dr Nicola Fawcett, and photographer Chris Wood.


Dr Fawcett is a hospital Doctor, and studies how antibiotics affect the delicate balance of microbes in the gut. She has created this exhibition to help communicate the messages of the ARMORD study, which is currently recruiting adults in Oxfordshire. You can learn more about this at: armordstudy.wordpress.com

You can learn more about the science behind them (and the original images) here

You can hear more from Chris and Nicola, on the techniques they used, and other questions   here.

If you would like to leave any comments or feedback, or are interested in hearing about future art or research projects, you can do so here (note: external site)

Here’s an explanation of how we created the images:

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Higher resolution and individual images are  available below.


All images on this post are by Chris Wood. If you re-use them, please attribute them to: Chris Wood and Nicola Fawcett, Modernising Medical Microbiology (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0))

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Nicola Fawcett is supported by a Clinical Research Training Fellowship funded by the Medical Research Council UK, and the exhibition has been kindly supported by a Medical Research Council UK Public Engagement Seed Fund Award. Nicola is currently undertaking a D.Phil with the  Nuffield Department of Medicine and the University of Oxford with the Modernising Medical Microbiology Research Group.


The work owes a huge amount to Anna Dumitriu, the research group’s Artist-in-Residence. You can see her work at: http://www.normalflora.co.uk, or instagram here.

This work has been created as part of our public engagement programme, to communicate the science we do, and why we do it at:  http://modmedmicro.nsms.ox.ac.uk/art/

This work originally started as part of the  American Society of Microbiology’s 2015 ‘Agar Art’ Competition- see more here, and see all the entries here .

The original work, and more images, and a lot more explanation, can be found at Nicola Fawcett’s page here: http://livinginamicrobialworld.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/the-wild-garden-of-the-gut-bacteria/

If you are interested in obtaining prints of the images, or hearing about future art work, please email modmedmicroart@gmail.com

Final acknowledgements:

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  • Anais says:

    As a new master student in this wonderful field which is the gut microbiome I was really impressed by your work.
    Art and science can go together, what a nice way to do it.

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