Peter Elfes and Earths Fractals

Peter Elfes and Earths Fractals

Lake Eyre, has long held a fascination with Australian artist like John Olsen, Sydney Nolan & Tim Storrier. Following in this tradition, photographer Peter Elfes has spent the past three years documenting Lake Eyre in his series The Arrival.
I’m a big admirer of artists like Olsen, Nolan & Storrier who have all spent time out at Lake Eyre, but my biggest inspiration is the work of Fred William. It is his sense of perspective that I find very exciting and familiar. There are many examples in my own work in the Australian desert that remind me of Fred William's abstract paintings. I find it really interesting that he often omits horizon, and when he does include a horizon he places it in the out limits of his paintings.

In the desert this kind of perspective can only be observed from the air, which is where I exclusively photograph from. In 2009 when I started documenting this recent flooding of Lake Eyre, I noticed that there were many repetitive natural formations everywhere. They appeared in the desert, in the lake and where the two joined, always slightly different depending on the terrain, but all of them seemed to share some similarities. At first I didn’t really spend much time thinking about them, although in this vast and presumed featureless terrain, I found myself drawn to these unusual pattens of nature.

One night during one of those all night editing session, (that modern photographers inevitably have, these days), I had an epiphany! With blurry eyes trying to focus on the computer screen, I thought to myself all I keep seeing is repeating patterns of nature, and then it hit me. Of course! I was looking at Fractals, I thought 'GOD' how did I miss it, there it was all the time staring me in the face. That explains my attraction to these formations when I'm in the air looking down at them. During the mid seventies when Benoit Mandelbrot first showed the world his computer generated examples of Fractal Geometry, I like everyone else was mesmerised by the beauty and complexity of the Mandelbrot Set.

It is therefore no surprise that every leading mathematician and scientist around the world that has spoken about Fractal geometry acknowledges that they appear in nature everywhere. The only thing was up until now I have only ever observed them in either extreme macro-photography or in astronomy, (images of galaxies etc) but this to me was something new. It was an example of Natures Fractals on a terrestrial scale. I call them ‘Earths Fractals’. For years I had been photographing the landscape around me and never really saw this kind of effect, now it seems like it’s everywhere. It’s ironic that the mathematical equation that created Fractal Geometry also spawned the invention of Interpolating Software. In 1991, Michael Barsley, was given a huge grant by the US government to develop Fractal based software. He started the Fractal Imaging Corporation, the software that FIC, developed with their team of computer scientist, is the software that is now used by all photographers around the world to rescale photographs and bring their images to print stage.

Other examples of the notion that Fractals existing in nature, has been noted in the work of M.C. Escher and Jackson Pollock, and in practically every ancient culture's art, like the Tibetan’s Mandala as well as in Aboriginal Art.

Because of the unique terrain that exists in these desert regions in Australia, and especially at Lake Eyre, my trips out to the lake, have had a profound influence on the way I see the world around me, and that I think, is very evident in my artwork.

Albert Einstein once said, 'The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, it is the source of all true art and science.'