This is what ecstasy looks like under a microscope
A former laboratory analyst-turned-artist offers a new, unworldly perspective on drugs
Before Maurice Mikker took up photography and design, the 29-year-old Dutchman was a licensed medical laboratory assistant in the Netherlands. While peering into microscopes day in and day out, he was frequently dazzled by the miniscule scenes staring back at him. He knew he had to figure out a way to capture these moments more permanently.
GHB crystals under a cross polarization microscope with 100x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
In 2014, a few years after graduating art school, Mikkers began working on Micrograph Stories, a project that reveals a different side of the substances we consume every day — from medication to food additives — by placing them under a microscope. Through a crystallization process, the substances transform into otherworldly, technicolor luminations, more closely resembling rare gemstones than the semi-mundane chemicals they are.
Aspirin crystals after waiting for one hour. | (Maurice Mikkers)
After initially experimenting with over-the-counter painkillers and antibiotics, Mikkers got curious about harder drugs, but was unsure how to procure the small samples he needed. With the help of the internet and Bitcoin, a tiny sample of MDMA, or ecstasy as it's known, was delivered to his door. Mikkers dissolved the drug in water, set a droplet on a slide where it dried, and captured the tie-dye effect of the crystals under the microscope.
When he was done, he handed the drug over to a pharmacist, but struggled with whether to continue his artistic science experiment. "Walking out of the pharmacy my brain was in a twist," he writes in a post on Medium. "'I broke the law by buying and being in possession of a hard drug.'" Ultimately, he decided to take the risk. "My curiosity and vision behind this project was bigger. Bigger than my initial concerns about purchasing and possessing very small amounts of hard drugs."
Below, a tour through Mikker's microscopic world:
MDMA crystals under 200x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
Acetaminophen crystals after waiting for three hours. | (Maurice Mikkers)
Amphetamine crystals under 40x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
Diclofenac crystals after waiting for 72 hours. | (Maurice Mikkers)
Ciprofloxacin crystals after waiting for nine hours. | (Maurice Mikkers)
DMT crystals under 400x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
LSD crystals under 40x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
2C-B crystals under 200x enlargement. | (Maurice Mikkers)
To see more of Maurice Mikkers' work from the "Micrograph Stories" project, visit his website.