The Apophysis Conspiracy
When I joined Flickr in 2007, I thought that the photo-sharing website was only for photographs. But I found that it inclued thriving communities of people making other kinds of images, and among these, a good number of fractalists. The fractals were interesting, some of them breathtakingly complex and beautiful, but most of them did not make me want to have a go for myself.
And then I saw some pictures that were different. I discovered that the program used to generate them was called Apophysis. I learnt that it was possible to use it without either a very powerful computer or very much mathematical knowledge. Most of all, something about the look of Apophysis fractal pictures was ‘me-like’: friendly, urging me to come out and play with them. I still don’t know quite what it is about Apophysis that attracts me, but it was love at first sight.
Apophysis is a fractal flame generator. This makes a particular family of fractals images, some of which do resemble the pictures one sees in flames or veils of smoke. You can download the program from www.apophysis.org – where you will also find links to experimental and alternative versions on Sourceforge, links to tutorials and other useful resources. Oh, and it’s free. (It’s purely a Windows program. There is a fairly similar fractal flame program available for Macs. It is called Oxidizer and is also on Sourceforge.)
Some people approach fractal art in a very top-down, organised way, telling the computer exactly what to create and remaining very much in control of the design process throughout. What I particularly like about Apophysis is the way it allows me to work alongside it. We collaborate. The program takes a random starting image and offers me a batch of mutations and variations on it. I select from them, and it offers further variation until I come across an image that I want to use.
It’s not purely selective breeding. I can limit the available options, make alterations and adjustments, and run subprogram scripts to change the picture. After I have the rendered image, I can add further processing in an art program, to bring out what attracted me to that image. But however much of my own creative input I add to the final result, my best work feels like a productive conspiracy between myself and Apophysis: the love affair of two years ago turned into a very fruitful marriage.
We have several thousand children so far.