It’s a wonderful feeling when you find out something new about this crazy place we call earth. The existence of ferrofluid is today’s new thing for me – a magnetic solution with a similar viscosity to motor oil. This doesn’t sound that interesting, but when watercolours are added to this unusual substance and placed into a magnetic field the reaction is beautiful.
Captured by Swiss photographer Fabian Oefner in his project Millefiori, the iron particles start to rearrange, forming black channels and separating the watercolours from the ferrofluid, creating these technicolour structures that look like psychedelic planets or trippy cells under a microscope. This is just one project out of many of Fabian’s that colourfully and dramatically encapsulate split-second reactions to give them this feeling of importance and preciousness. Here to tell us more about why he’s drawn to these kinds of projects is Fabian himself…
How did you discover images could be made like this in your Millefiori series?
A couple of months ago, I saw a video of the Japanese artist Sachiko Kodama, which caught my attention. In this video the artist used ferrofluids to create amazing looking sculptures. So I decided to start experimenting with this peculiar liquid and eventually found out, that mixing it with watercolours creates these strange brain-like structures.
How does a project start for you?
I usually get my inspiration from magazines or blogs on science and technology but also from other artists from different fields like photography, painting or sculpting. Every now and then I come across a technology or a material, that I find interesting to experiment with and from there on, a project sometimes develops. So for example with the Millefiori series I first tried out creating different shapes of the ferrofluid itself and then started to add all different kinds of other liquids to it and see what happens.
You often capture reactions or consequences of an event in your work, what is it that draws you to this kind of documentation?
To me, photography is an analytic tool. Often it is the only possible way to make the results of my experiments visible, since most of them are either very tiny or very short-lived. For example, in Millefiori, the structures you see are only about the size of a thumbnail or in the Vanishing Beauty project, the structure of the exploding ballon lasted only a fraction of a second. With photography it is possible to magnify such tiny structures or to freeze a moment lasting only in the blink of an eye.
Do you think the progression in photo technology is a positive thing? Does it help or hinder your work?
I think it can be both. Since most of my projects have to do with a lot of experimenting, trying out different options, it is very comfortable knowing I am able to look at the images right after taking them. In this way I can adapt the assembly to achieve the images that I have in mind more quickly. But nevertheless, be it an old 4″ × 5″ view camera or the latest 80 megapixels camera that you take your pictures with, you still have to make the right decisions to get the images you want.