Meet Erin Espery, the scientist-turned-filmmaker who fused science and art
Over 4.5 billion years ago, cyanobacteria started something that changed the Earth’s atmosphere. Aquatic microbes fed on carbon and sunlight to grow, releasing oxygen as a by-product. Over time, oxygen released by generations of cyanobacteria accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere. I was. Today, scientists are studying carbon fixation mechanisms in cyanobacteria to undo some of the damage humans have done to the Earth’s atmosphere. The video series Refresh brings a unique perspective into the lives of these microscopic heroes and is currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature’s Expedition Health exhibit.
Espelie’s films have screened at the British Film Institute and major international film festivals in New York, Rotterdam and Edinburgh. Her mother is a virologist and her father is a biochemist. So she got an early opportunity to work in her lab setting. “I grew up as an academic kid. I’ve been working in a lab since she was 14,” she says. She spent most of her childhood on the University of Idaho and Washington State University campuses where her parents worked.
After earning a degree in molecular and cellular biology from Cornell University, she received offers to study biology at Harvard University and MIT. However, she turned them down to “take some time off” in New York. “I got a graduate job at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), but they gave me one year off from her. [to join the programme]That year allowed her to explore the New York theater scene. Her parents were art lovers, but Esperi, 43, saw art as an “extracurricular” during her school days. I was thinking of it as an activity. New York changed her perspective. There, she worked as a showman at her Aquila Theater Company and was an occasional performer in her educational productions. She also worked at her revue in Paris as a poetry reader.
Espery didn’t get cut off from science when he got the chance to work at the American Museum of Natural History. “She started her work with Natural Her History magazine,” she says. “So I found this interesting world where people were covering science and thinking about its breadth and interrelationships, as opposed to being unable to put their noses up to a Petri dish, so to speak, and think in a broader perspective.” I felt like I was able to see science more from the air.”
At the end of her one-year term, she requested an extension, but UCSF turned her down. So she stayed in New York and worked on several “traditional” documentary projects. But her real turning point came in 2006 when she joined Meerkat Media, an arts community that fosters collaborative filmmaking. “People who were part of the collective helped other members with film projects,” she says. “Meerkat has taught me a lot about cinematography, editing, recording and sound mixing. In 2009, she released a six-minute short film, What Part of Earth is Inhabited, which blended the ideas of speciation and extinction. The film was screened at the New York Film Festival. It gave her the confidence to become an independent avant-garde filmmaker.In 2014, her first feature-length documentary, Lanthanide her series, was released. Discussing the importance of “rare earths” (elements with atomic numbers from 57 to 71) in human life, the film was hailed by critics as “a fusion of poetry and science.”
“My films are science films. At a basic level, they’re trying to encapsulate what it means to do science: asking questions and experimenting with the body of research,” she says. . From 2012 until 2015, Esperi taught courses in Environmental Affairs and Documentary Arts at Duke University. She is currently an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her relationship with Jeff Cameron, an assistant professor studying cyanobacteria at the University of Colorado, led to the development of Refresh. This short story depicts the photosynthesis, proliferation and self-destruction of cyanobacteria over generations. In the exhibition, there is a picture of cyanobacteria on one side of the screen. On the other are dozens of Petri dishes containing these ‘artfully plated’ creatures.
“I was very intrigued by the camera’s involvement in Jeff’s research methods,” says Espery, who is married to experimental filmmaker and film image artist David Gatten. “He put a camera on the microscope so he could see the growth of single cells, which was new. It was the first time to look at at the single-cell level and see how it grows over time.”
Espelie added that Cameron didn’t see any cyanobacteria after a period of time. “But one thing he never realized was that once the screen was full, the cyanobacteria would build dangerous oxygen levels for themselves. That’s why carbon dioxide is now toxic to us.” The oxygen they produce becomes toxic to them, just as they are,” she says. “It was very moving to think in terms of extinction. This gentle destruction caused by atmospheric gases stands out a little bit,” she says. “And that’s one of the things I think most scientists get on their nerves. They don’t want to project too much. But when you project yourself onto something else, you make yourself more Sometimes you can see it very well, and art does this projection beautifully.”