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Behind the Image

“If you want to combine your natural talent as an artist with science and the art of photography with research, there would be no better option than to follow a career in biomedical/life sciences.” 
 – Angelos Rantis


Retinal Detachment caused by rupture of globe
Angelos Rantis

Tell us something about the subject of this photograph. What technical issues did you have, or have to workout, to create this image?

In the evening of a busy day, this patient with apparent signs of severe injuries on the face enters the clinic with a request for photographing the heavily bruised left eye. After taking in the studio the facial pictures I realized that it would be very difficult not only to guide the patient’s vision but also to lift the lid on a level where I do not cause any discomfort by stretching the stiches. One more thought that crossed my mind was that maybe there would be nothing for me to see in the fundus picture but the vitreous hemorrhage.

My initial attempt to take the fundus pictures was from a normal non mydriatic camera with a 50° lens. Seeing that there was brilliant clarity to capture pictures from the fundus I decided that the 50° lens was way too narrow to visualize the whole retinal damage with many elevated surfaces which means different focusing areas. Taking the patient to the widefield camera and seeing the colour fundus picture I knew I had something special to work with later.

I found really hard when processing the picture, to bring the colour to an extend that does not interfere with the overall contrast but also is not looking totally unnatural. Unfortunately the widefield camera we have, uses the cSLO technology which estimates how the fundus colour should look like but without being 100% realistic.

The picture shows a detached retina of an eye that has suffered a severe damage which made it break. On the picture we can see how the retina has been folded in such a way that the optic nerve is no longer visible.

What is your photographic background?

Being fascinated from the world and its beauty at a very early age I decided to study photography in Greece at the University of West Attica. I was always triggered to photograph the unseen or at least subjects well hidden from the rest of the world. At the very early stage of my career as a photographer I started photographing insects that can hurt human beings like scorpions and mosquitos, using a microscope and my DSLR camera. The outcome was my thesis dissertation and one step forward to frame the “unseen”.

Later on I joined the team of Athens Eye Hospital as a photographer and that is where I fell in love with scientific photography. I found out that every picture I was viewing was something I had never seen before. The idea of capturing pictures from the organ that helps me see those pictures is a very sweet twist in my head. But medical photography is something greater than just ophthalmic photography.
That is why I started my Postgraduate studies in Cardiff University and before I even finish my studies I joined the medical photography team in Media Resources Centre at the University Hospital of Wales. In my two years employment in Cardiff I had the chance to see medical photography in all its glory and realize how lucky Medical Photographers are to be able to contribute to science by using their photographic media.

Ophthalmology is still though my passion and that led me in my current position in City Road, in a hospital specializing in Eyes from the year 1805. Moorfields Eye Hospital is the oldest and largest centre for ophthalmic treatment, teaching and research in Europe and also a “Paradise on Earth” for photographing the “unseen”.

What elements are important to you when you judge or critique your work or the work of other professional photographers?

My principles in evaluating my work when it comes to ophthalmic imaging are the following five.

Composition would be my first element to check when I judge my work. Even though in retinal photography the composition seems to be pretty much the same, sometimes is hard to keep the standardization with patients suffering from a pathology.

Secondly, I check the clarity of the picture. When it comes to fundus photography there are many parameters which can cause a blurry obscured picture, from cataract to vitreous floaters. The nature, quality and angle of the light that has been used to visualize the ocular anatomy as well as the pathology.

Then I estimate the rarity of the pathology combined with the proper lighting technique. The pathology will lead me to my fifth judging element, which shows the difficulty to capture the specific subject.

What photographers inspire or influence you?

It is hard to select a few people who influence my personal perspective in photography because they are too many. I think a person finds inspiration through everything no matter what they do. But if I had to choose I would mention people like Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helmet Newton who have showed the way of seeing photography in all its glory.

How has your membership in the BCA helped you?

Let me answer this question by looking back on the previous one. BioCommunications Association is one great source of inspiration for photographers specializing in scientific imaging, where you can observe really unique pictures from a wide variety of subjects.

Do you have any advice for photographers interested in a photography career in biomedical/life sciences?

If you want to combine your natural talent as an artist with science and the art of photography with research, there would be no better option than to follow a career in biomedical/life sciences. Keeping this in mind, no unbeatable obstacle would appear in your way.