All photos by Zac Henderson. Used with Creative Commons permission.
Making a graphic or visual representation of something invisible requires a dash of imagination and a generous helping of cleverness and creativity. Sure, you can make models or craft verbal analogies, but it seems impossible to do it through photography. However, Boulder, Colorado photographer and videographer Zac Henderson found an interesting way to do it: by substituting it with something that we can easily identify and understand. He demonstrates this with his thought-provoking series that attempts to explain dark matter.
“Approximately 27% of the universe is filled with matter that we can’t detect, or even truly understand called dark matter. Another 68% of the universe is filled with a force that effects [sic] the expansion of the universe called dark energy, yet who know little else about it. Neither registers on the electromagnetic spectrum and cannot be directly observed,” Henderson reminds us in the project statement of his Dark Matter series.
Still, he found fascination and inspiration in these two unsolved science mysteries. Through these photos he shot using Phase One XF100 MP and Schneider Kreuznach 120mmm Macro, he sought to “embody particle physics, not in a literal representation, but as works inspired by the field’s strangeness and outlandish qualities.” To do this, he used another invisible force more familiar to us: magnetism.
By combining ceramic magnets and iron filings, Henderson was able to make a concrete representation of what he imagines could be how dark matter works. Possibly, even how they look like in another dimension currently inaccessible to us. The series also makes clever use of something familiar to explore and represent phenomena that continue to elude our complete understanding. It’s also a fine example of a compelling blend of art and science — and how one can draw inspiration from the other.