A Photo of Infinite Jest

Photographs courtesy the Biocode Project and National Geographic contributing photographer David Liittschwager.

The idea of infinity can be difficult to wrap our minds around—it’s been talked about in math classes and used in many a hyperbole, but the idea of ‘forever’ is still so abstract. Now you can experience a glimpse of visual infinity for yourself with National Geographic’s “Infinite Photograph.” At first it just looks like a single picture. But with a single click, you find out it’s made of countless other pictures. You keep clicking only to find out each of those pictures is made of more pictures. And those pictures? Yup, just more pictures. Try and stop clicking. Go ahead. Believe us—it’s not that easy. And because this is National Geographic, each photograph is stunning.

The photo mosaic dates not too far back in the late twentieth century. Both Robert Silvers and Joseph Francis pioneered the art form through computer programming. The effect is a sort of meta-art, with some pretty incredible results. The concept of a mosaic has roots in pointillism, an art form popular during the 1800s. Pointillism is a painting technique where many small dots are created in patterns to produce a larger, single image. This, along with photo mosaics, are great representations of interconnectedness, the breakdown of how all the parts contribute to a whole.

The most recent Infinite Photo is one of marine and terrestrial life on the South Pacific island of Mo‘orea. Besides being an excellent way to kill ten minutes of your time at the office or wherever you may be, it’s also quite educational. By continuing to click on an individual photo (more clicking!),  you’ll learn a specie’s common and scientific name. This photograph is a physical, interactive, beautiful representation of infinity. And it’s awesome.

Allison Nonko

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