Andrew Hall Uses Magnets and Sounds to Create Surreal Images of Liquids

These kinds of photographs are genuinely magnetic. To make them, professional photographer Andrew Hall moves a strong magnet underneath a tray of ferrofluid — an oil speckled with magnetic particles — and captures the outcome.

To produce the effect he pours ferrofluid into a container three millimetres deep. He then applies a magnetic field beneath the container while adding drops of color, like paint or ink, which mixes with the fluid. “If the magnet’s close, the fluid tends to go into spikes, but as I move it away, it morphs into the beautiful organic pattern you see here,” Hall says.

Hall adds the pigments in precise amounts to achieve the magnificent color patterns; differences in density drive the designs. The patterns only last for a small fraction of a second, so Hall works with a flash with a duration of just 1/6000th of a second.

Even though he has honed his technique over a few years, the final results are occasionally unexpected. “There’s always that little element of chance. That’s nature taking its course, which is what makes them all so beautiful,” he says.

He from time to time also uses basic water as the liquid component in his creations to visualize sound. He captures how water morphs in response to sound waves played through a speaker. At times the music is going to be melodic; other times Hall may play just a humming tone, causing the liquid to vibrate. “It kind of dances with the music. It’s staggering stuff,” Hall says.