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High-Speed Snapshots Of Alcohol Exploding Look Like Mushroom Clouds And Brain Scans

Fabian Oefner's new series, "Aurora," turns booze into "ephemeral fire sculptures."

by Zach Sokol
Mar 3 2014, 9:30pm

Fabian Oefner, of Studio Oefner, has stated that his goal as a photographer is to "bring the world of art and science together." Whether it's artistic renderings of centrifugal force, gravity in motion, or opposing chemical compound mixing, the artist has a special gift for creating a visual representation of natural forces. His focus on chemical reactions continues with a new project, as he's back with a photo series that details high-speed snapshots of alcohol after lighting it on fire and exploding it. 

The image series, titled Aurora, was brought to fruition through a seemingly-simple process: Oefner put a few drops of alcohol into a glass vessle, let the liquid settle, then ignited the mixture of gases. As the flames surged through the vessel, Oefner took photographs, yielding what he describes as "ephemeral fire sculptures." We know from our past doc on the artist, however, that it takes Oefner countless attempts before he gets the perfect shots he's looking for. 

His site also notes: "Like the cortex of the human brain. Or the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb...these peculiar-looking structures are made of flames stopped in time." This isn't the first time we've seen fire used as a medium, but Oefner's new photos have us burning for more. 

See more photos, and then re-visit our documentary on Oefner's "Action Paint" work that captures paint-filled balloons as they're popping (below). 


photo series
fabian oefner
Studio Oefner
ephemeral fire structures
high-speed photography