Bill Hirst

from the Real World


Museet for Fotokunst presents the British photographer and physicist Bill Hirst's "Fractal Landscapes from the Real World", as a continuation of previous years' landscape exhibitions. The exhibition consists of a sequence of large and finely detailed black and white photographs, paired and grouped to demonstrate the fractal character of natural and man-made landscapes.

Fractals are a recently discovered class of geometrical forms that create familiar but irregular patterns ranging over variations in size. Many people will have seen the complex, and brightly coloured examples generated by computer. But fractals are more than just a mathematical curiosity, or a computer hobbyist's plaything: they shape us and the world we live in. Details from the real world like the meanders of a river, the cragginess of a mountain or the shape of a cloud, used to be regarded as chance deviations from an otherwise tidy - rather mechanistic - view of nature. Fractals and chaos theory reveal a previously unsuspected level of ordered complexity buries within nature's apparent untidiness.

Bill Hirst demonstrates the existence, and pervasive influence, of such ordered complexity, by highlighting similarities between separate, physically remote, natural and man-made landscapes.

The book "Fractal Landscapes from the Real World" was published by Cornerhouse Publications. More extensive than the exhibition, it contains over 50 large tritone plates and includes a lengthy infroduction by Benoit Mandeibrot (originator offractal geometry and the central figure in its development for 30 years). He describes what fractals are, how they arise, and the reason for their far-reaching impact on science and beyond.

Bill Hirst is an independent photographer and research physicist. Born in 1953 he began taking photographs and studying physics at the age of 11, inspired by an influential teacher. In 1978 he completed a PhD in physics and moved to the Northwest of England to work. He has exhibited his photographs widely in the UK and abroad since his first show in 1980.
As part of a scheme to promote the public's understanding of science, he was awarded a Media Fellowship in 1987 by the Royal Society, the Royal Institution and the British Association for the Advancement of Science.