All the photos and editing by me, no stock.
Defining life is a complex question, and quite controversial as well. A commonly accepted definition can be put as follows (according to Wikipedia): "Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate". Of course, those "signaling and self-sustaining processes" would need to be precised, which is even harder to do, as many entities are along a grey line regarding the implied physiological functions (for example viruses and other replicators, various hybrids, artificial/mechanical life, etc.)
Regardless of those considerations, the origin of life is a fascinating question. When I was a kid, I heard at school about the infamous Miller–Urey experiment, also known as the "Primitive Soup" experiment: it probably entirely changed my vision of life. Simply put, basic components (water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen) were put in a flask, and electric sparks were fired to simulate lightning: after a few days, organic compounds were present. Of course, I am no chemist nor biologist, so details are beyond my understanding, but the idea that there is a recipe for life is, again, fascinating to me: put the right ingredients in the right pot, wait a bit, and tadaaaa! Life appears. It is almost like creating "something" from "nothing". The Holy Grail of any artist
Of course, abiogenesis (which is how this process is called) can be disturbing to some, as it desecrates life, considering that it is a logical and mechanical consequence of the appropriate starting conditions. Life would not be that special after all. Personally, I like this idea a lot, as it is a humble approach of the importance of our own existence, as human beings. After all, our species believed once that Earth was the center of the universe, while we now know it is an insignificant dust lost in the immensity. Similarly, I tend to think that human beings are nothing that special, merely the result of a mechanism started a few billions years ago. I do realize this vision may not be necessarily shared by everyone, but I wanted to express that point of view in my "Primitive Soup" image.
I must say I had great fun creating it. Everything started Saturday July 27th 2013 around 6.00am. My wife and I were awakened by thunder and lightnings. The large droplets of rain were hitting the windows loudly, and after a few minutes, she said to me: "You should go take some lighting photos, these could be useful for the next project". A few minutes later, I was standing half-naked in front of our house, with the camera on a tripod, asking myself what I was doing here. The storm was almost over, but I managed to obtain a couple of shots. While doing so, contemplating the electricity in the sky reminded me that Primitive Soup experiment: this is the moment I decided to create an illustration of that concept.
In the afternoon, I wanted to shoot underwater photos. However, I do not have a housing for my DSLR, nor any waterproof camera. So I took an empty 50 liters aquarium I have at home, and put my camera in it. Then I stepped into the river next to my house, and used the aquarium as a little submarine: worked like a charm! The photos were mostly muddy and blurry, but it was exactly what I needed texture-wise.
Then, back at home, I installed the aquarium in my garden, brought some studio strobes, in order to shoot various photos of black ink sinking into water. Quite an easy setup, and the shapes you get are remarkable. I created the left leg combining several of these photos. The day after, I posed in my studio for the emerging human trunk. I covered myself with mud and water: an interesting experience
Finally, the right leg was created using bread dough, either stretched by hand, or installed on metallic wires to mimic morphological shapes. My wife was of a great help on that: she designed the pseudo-DNA helix as well as the calf part.
I am very happy I was able to translate my thoughts into that image. Of course, it is obviously not at all a realistic approach, rather a digested vision of my mind. I hope some will find it interesting. In any case, thanks for watching, I appreciate your attention a lot.
ETA: Oh wow, thank you very much for the Daily Deviation! I am so very proud of it