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Weakly Interacting Massive Particle

Photography by Stuart McCloskey

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Leeds art graduate Stuart McClosky talks about his final year project 'Weakly Interacting Massive Particle', where he sets out to visually capture dark matter by examining and researching objects invisible to the human eye. The images leave you with intrigue and a feeling you are viewing something that has been newly discovered. Using alternative photographic processes Stuart manages to visualize the subject of matter and presence, in a digestible yet dystopian way.

Which photo from the series were you most excited to get developed?

It’s hard to specify one image in the series however, the photographs I produced using the microscope did excite me. I was interested to see whether my microscope/camera creation had worked, and it did to some degree! I experimented with solarizing the images in an attempt to pull them apart, defining the spaces in between the structures and trying to dive deeper into the abstract forms I found under the microscope.

How did you go about researching such a broad and philosophically charged subject?

I began by reading a few different books and articles exploring the intersection of art and science, this was the basis of my dissertation. I was interested in the idea that science-based subjects can be just as creative, speculative, and philosophical as art. This was a jumping-off point for me in using photographic equipment and methods to represent dark matter. For a long while, I have been interested in semiotics and indexicality, especially within photography. The notion of photography as evidence is often challenged and I am exploring this further by attempting to capture something so metaphysical. I allowed my creativity and speculation to lead my research just as I imagine a scientist would.

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Has this scientific methodology run throughout all of your degree work of is it something new to WIMP ?

I think the science aspect is new to WIMP, although the broad, explorative way I tried to approach the subject is a recurring methodology for previous works. In previous projects I try to investigate the subject matter in many formats of photography as well as drawing inspiration from various photographic styles and resources. There is usually a hands-on element to my work, in an attempt to draw deeper meaning to my projects. I often experiment with the medium of photography itself by creating my own cameras, degrading abstract imagery and experimenting with the printing process. This tends to add a self-referential almost ironic perspective that has become a recurring theme in my practice.

Your images show this closeness and intrigue to ordinarily unassuming subjects, do you feel this is reflective of your outlook outside of photography?

I would say so yes. My photography has taken on a forensic nature as I often feature the subject in the centre of the frame, using the camera to produce an index of objects, scenes and places I have visited. I think this stems from my interest in science-based subjects at school and always having the desire to look deeper, exploring the strange subjects, ideas and philosophies that have occupied people for centuries. I have recently discovered I can exhibit these interests through a creative outlet such as photography and in doing so, produce deep, thoughtful projects that truly engage me.

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Is there a new skills or piece of knowledge you have learnt from this work that will impact future projects?

I have learnt to persist and adapt with projects. I had the opportunity to visit a dark matter research facility in March but unfortunately due to the pandemic this had to be postponed. I am still hopeful to visit later this year and feel like it would add a new layer of meaning to the project. I have learnt to take my time with projects and let them breathe. Often within the university environment you are expected to produce well-conceived projects within a few months, however, I have learnt the benefit of continuing projects in the long term and allowing ideas to come naturally, don’t force it!

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