Over the months of September and October, researchers from King’s College London, Imperial College London and the University of Southampton took part in a photography project aiming to collect photos of a range of everyday objects that emit low levels of radioactivity. The project aimed to highlight how radiation is not always harmful, and has beneficial applications in healthcare; for medical imaging and radiotherapy. The project brought together 21 individuals from the three institutions, who attended a series of virtual workshops with the conceptual artist Mike Barrett.
After an initial introductory session, researchers uploaded their photos to an online repository to simulate open discussion and feedback. Mike commented “It has been exciting to collaborate with the Mithras scientists and see them develop the concepts of the project.”
He continued “Despite our forced separation, I almost feel that I accompanied them as they hunted down examples of everyday radiation and debated the best shot. Their efforts mean that can now all see through their eyes and better understand the message that radiation is everywhere about us in our daily lives always has been.”
The researchers that took part found the experience of working on this project, which enabled them to explore their creativity, thoroughly enjoying. PhD student Joana Do Mar who took part in the project said : “"The photography project was an interesting experience which brought me a new perspective and new insight into little things that surround us. It was also interesting to get to know new people and their thoughts by discussing their pictures and finding things that might not be noticed, bringing a new perspective to a concept."
The raw photos were annotated by Mike to draw attention to the radioactive objects and convey the message that radioactivity is everywhere – it is right here. Earlier in the year, during lockdown Mike worked on his ‘Here was a Time’ project. During his exercise walks, he stopped intermittently to chalk a circle and write ‘here’ underneath, prompting interest and intrigue amongst people that viewed his work on the streets of Brighton. It was this work that resonated with Sam Terry, the Public Engagement Lead for the Mithras programme who set in motion collaborating with Mike on this photography project.
The final collection of photos will be displayed digitally on the @radiation_hotstuff Instagram account, which was set up by PhD student Ines Costa to demystify radiation by demonstrating how it can be used for good and that it is in fact all around us. Ines also uses the account to showcase the daily life of PhD students and researchers, hopefully inspiring a new generation to explore a career in science. Ines says“ The Instagram account @radiation_hotstuff has given me the unique opportunity to engage with the public and show to the world the research that we carry out in the MITHRAS programme. As a PhD student, this has been a great experience for myself, as I have been developing non-scientific skills beyond my PhD and I have been able to be closer to the non-scientific community. Through this powerful tool, we are able to bring the science of radioactivity closer to the public and show to the world how it can positively impact medicine when used properly.”
By demonstrating that radioactivity is a part of everyday life, it's in the bananas you eat and the stone buildings you live in, researchers hope to decrease the stigma attached to radioactivity and also to increase awareness of the field of nuclear medicine to a wider audience.