I cheated a little in designing this picture; the sight lines and different patches of tone were taken as the basis for my study from a reproduction of a painting by Turner. The discipline enforced on myself was a challenge, mainly because I wanted to get a similar sense of movement. To some extent it was successful; the colours are vastly different from the original example, however the patches of differential tone are intentional. Integrating the human torso from the X-ray was also difficult as it imposed an almost architectural structure whereas the original picture (as so many of Turners are) was misty and evanecent.
The initial X-ray for this picture came from a young man with a primary focus of tuberculosis – a so called Ghon focus – in the left upper lobe. This is a small focus of inflammation, a point of activity seeded in the lung surrounding an infecting mycobacterium bacillus, inhaled from another sufferer. It is symbolised in my image by the candle-like point of light attached to the top of the distant tower. The infected foci go on to form a small granuloma, a little ball of active blood-vessels, and then as the patient recovers it leaves behind one or more amorphous calcified spots which can be seen at the bottom of the picture.
Primary tuberculosis may regress spontaneously, or progress with time, but it can become chronic or complications may develop. This person recovered on a course of antibiotics.
Known as the white plague in Victorian times it was thought when I was a student that the disease was in decline. Compromise of the immune system by diseases such as HIV, medical treatments such as steroids or cytostatic drugs, and autoimmune diseases, has led to a worldwide increase in tuberculosis.