Medical photographer Jay Wruck can see it in your eyes: hypertension, diabetes, syphilis, cancer. Once he looked through his view-finder to see a tapeworm peering back.
"The eye is not only our window on the world, it is the one place where a doctor can look in, without doing violence to the body, and see what's going on," Wruck said. "In one way or another every illness involves the blood circulation, and inside the eye it's all laid out for him to see."
Wruck, 38, takes his pictures for the clinical use of ophthalmologists, but often finds a beauty in the photographs that is totally unrelated to their utility. A tumor swelling from the floor of the eyeball suggests sunrise over a volcanic ridge; Stage 4 diabetic degeneration might be a dust storm on Mars; and the tapeworm could be an ovum at the moment of fertilization.
"Most are just patterns, colors and textures," he said. "I can forget my training [as a medical assistant] and see them for what they are rather than what they represent."
Starting today the general public can see them too, at the Fuller & d'Albert gallery at 3170 Campbell Drive (north off Route 50 just west of Fairfax Circle) in Fairfax City. The hours are 9 to 6, Monday through Saturday.
"I have no idea how this will go over," he said. "I don't think anything quite like it has been done before, but these things are too fascincating just to file."
Wruck studied for several years to qualify as a paramedical specialist. Almost everyday brings him something new and/or strange. "A couple of weeks ago I had a 14-year-old boy who was in a sleeping bag in a tent in Pennsylvania. There was a storm and he woke up to see some ball lighting bouncing over the ground toward him.
"He cried out to the counselor just as it hit him in the face; it burned right through the fovea [the back of the eyeball], cauterized the wound perfectly, and knocked him out."
The tapeworm, he said, "was in the eye of a hippie who had gone back to nature. He ate some uncooked pork. Looking in and seeing that worm looking out was like looking at the Devil." Wruck does not spare the gory details and doesn't even recognize them as gory, possibly because of his years as a combat photographer in Vietnam. "You know, given a chance, I'd go back to war," he said, the sentiment sounding more than a little strange, given his gentle demeanor. "It was awful, sometimes, but it was, I don't know, exciting. Real. ."
He has plans for setting up a national clearing house for medical photo processing and printing. Meanwhile, he does weddings from his Arlington studio.