Swiss Photographer Combines Art and Science

Science and art seem to be polar opposites. Art appeals to the emotions. A fine art photograph, for example, is made to elicit strong feeling. Science, on the other hand, is logical. It engages the rational part of the brain. How, then, do the two relate?

In this TED Talk, Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner highlights his projects that bring art and science together seamlessly:

Oefner uses science to create art. His work includes images of bursting soap bubbles and acrylic paint modeled by centrifugal forces. In the video featured here, he shares the experiments behind his projects entitled Dancing Colors and Millefiori.

Project 1: Dancing Colors


To create Dancing Colors, Oefner aimed to make sound waves visible. He tore the cover off of a standard subwoofer and replaced it with a thin plastic film. He then placed tiny colored crystals on the film and played an audio signal through the speaker. The vibrations from the speaker made the crystals move up and down, and he captured these visual sound waves with a spotlight and a camera capable of shooting 2000 frames per second.

Project 2: Millefiori


For his project called Millefiori, Oefner explored magnetism using ferrofluid, a completely black liquid containing iron particles. The fluid, which is similar in viscosity to motor oil, changes shape when placed near magnetic fields. To create art from this strange, hydrophobic liquid, he placed ferrofluid on a magnet and added watercolor paints. The paint created interesting channels around the magnetic fluid and ended up looking like a pop art piece.

With his work, Oefner strives to speak to both the heart and the brain. He wants his viewers to stop and appreciate the magic and beauty that is going on all around them. His engaging photos of scientific phenomena raise questions about how the world works, while treating viewers’ eyes to fantastic imagery.

“I’m always trying to link art and science together.”

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One response to “Swiss Photographer Combines Art and Science”

  1. Great Ted talk!

    What a crazy process for a picture. I wonder how long it took him to set it up.

    Wow, that’s cool. Makes you appreciate the little things…

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