Impermanence: Girl with finger in her mouth

All images courtesy of Seung-Hwan Oh

In the photo series "Impermanence," South Korean artist Seung-Hwan Oh creates colorful, otherworldly portraits with a little help from some "friends" — emulsion-consuming microbes, that is.

By immersing an exposed roll of medium-format positive film in water containing these bacteria and leaving them to sit for months or even years, the light-sensitive silver halides of the film's emulsion are gradually broken down and gobbled up by the hungry microbes. The resulting images are as spooky as they are fascinating and beautiful.

Impermanence: Suit and tie

Even after Seung-Hwan digitizes the film, the bacteria continues to eat away at the film until it's completely disintegrated. This "aesthetic of entangled creation and destruction" is what makes this project more than just static pieces of art that can be hung on walls. At its heart, the microbe's consumption of the film is the art itself — a truly ephemeral piece of art.

Impermanence: Girl with long hair

Continue below to see more of this intriguing body of work, and be sure to check out Seung-Hwan's portfolio website for more art that "explores the impermanence of matter" and the "material limits of photography."

Impermanence: Walking

Impermanence: Cartoons

Impermanence: Scarf

Impermanence: Magenta

Impermanence: Black hat

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Who knew microbes could be so artistically inclined?
A natural organic system meets the highly technical process of film development in these spooky, ephemeral portraits.