Photography is often used in the media to help tell a story, but in science, images are created to record scientific facts.
"A photograph can tell a truthful story," says Michael Peres, chairman of the biomedical photographic communications department and professor in the school of photographic arts and sciences. "By collaborating with researchers we help to illustrate their results, by bringing perspective without bias."
Biomedical photography is a true blend of art and science. The integrity of the image is determined by the ability of the photographer to have a fundamental understanding of the organism and the ability to preserve the subject in its natural environment. Once the picture is captured, image-processing techniques can be applied to further clarify the scientific statement. For example, color is often used to help reveal certain characteristics necessary to gain a better understanding.
Christye Sisson, associate professor in the school of photographic arts and sciences, focuses on ophthalmic photography, which is the only type of photography considered to be diagnostic. By photographing inside the eye, doctors can see systemic abnormalities on the retina.
To capture one type of ophthalmic photography—fluorescein angiography—the patient must first be injected with fluorescein. A camera equipped with special filters is used to highlight the dye as it traverses the retina. The highlighted regions help to identify vascular abnormalities such as swelling or abnormal blood vessels, which may be a sign of hypertension or diabetes.
The biomedical photographic communications program at RIT is the only program of its kind in the country. "Biomedical photography is really about capturing life in its purest form," says Peres. One image could be the determining evidence used in an investigation or confirm the presence of a chronic disease.