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Mouldy Art How CERN's rotting photos were restored

Mouldy slides captured in the 1980s at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva and left to rot, have been made into artwork. The slides were mostly copies of negatives dating from the time of the Large Electron-Positron Collider, and now form part of an exhibition in Geneva.

They were discovered in an old set of drawers, after CERN decided to digitalise some 450,000 photographs. After 30 years of slow degradation, the bacteria growing on the slides had slowly eaten away at the gelatine on the surface. Colours and shapes in the original images have been altered in a chaotic way, while the underlying framework of the original photography has kept its design. 

Jean-Yves Le Meur, head of CERN's Digital Memory Project, told Swiss Public Television, RTS, "After cleaning and screening them, we realised that they were beautiful from an artistic point of view." Le Meur and Matteo Volpi, a physicist photographer, created the pictures on show using subligraphy, a technique for reproducing images on aluminium plates. The end result is a collision between physics, chemistry, biology and art. The exhibition continues until 7 December. 


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