Art meets science in Darrell Tomkins' photography
Dr. Darrell Tomkins has an eye for patterns. With 35 years of experience as a cytogenteticist, she's developed an ability to recognize and detect faults in patterns. That means Tomkins, a University of Alberta professor of medical genetics and cytogenetics laboratory director at the Stollery Children's Hospital, can look at microscopic images of chromosomes to diagnose any number of diseases.
In her spare time, though, Tomkins turns her eye away from the microscope and through the lens of a camera to
capture colours and patterns that occur on a larger scale.
"The photography I do is kind of found objects or found fractals, so if you don't catch it you can't go back," she said. "It's images of things like frost on dead winter grass - ice crystals that are shining in the sunlight - you've got that for one or two hours maybe. Or dew droplets in a dandelion head that's gone to seed. You see that, and it won't be there tomorrow."
A photograph of a butterfly that hangs in Tomkins' office is another
example. "There's orange and fuchsia and green and teal. It's a beautiful combination, and that isn't going to happen again," she said.
Tomkins had her first ever photo exhibit this summer - a series of landscape photos taken of the Painted Desert in Arizona and in New Mexico.
"The mesas and canyons are gorgeous, and we visited many of the old missions," she said. "The colours are everywhere."
It is perhaps no surprise to learn then, that patterns and colours are what attracted Tomkins to her chosen profession.
"When I started out as a student in cytogenetics I used to dream of chromosomes.it's a career that was ideal for a visual artist with a mathematical bent. I am a scientist, but what I do is extremely visual."