Project Detail: Understanding


Emerging photographers 2018




Elba Alonso-Monsalve



Project Info


Nature is beautiful and mystifying. We can admire it, but we might get lost in questions: why is the sky blue? Why is ice slippery? How do rainbows form? Many of us have wondered things like these before. Physicists have explained these mysteries and many more!

I am a physicist. I look around, ask questions, and work hard to answer them using the language of math. Knowing the explanation does not make the process any less fun. It only drives one to ask more questions!

One of my professors, Cumrun Vafa, described it very well: "Nature is like magic, but not an ordinary one: Scientific explanation of it does not make it any less magical. It only adds to its spell!"

Unfortunately, the most beautiful scientific explanations are very hard to understand without a solid knowledge of math. This puts the fun out of reach for many, but I strongly believe it has a solution.

With this series, I want to recreate the satisfaction of scientific understanding. Hopefully, the viewer can get a feel for what motivates scientists and better value their work. I took these photographs in 2017 while studying quantum mechanics, mathematical analysis, and researching star clusters from an astronomical observatory in Arizona.

Art and science are close cousins. They are both motivated by curiosity and appreciation of beauty, in all its forms. I do physics better because I am a photographer. This project is my tribute to interdisciplinary artists and scientists.

I will keep learning physics, and I will keep taking photographs, for many more years to come.