When you think of swarms, you think of bees, ants or other such things like bats or schools of fish. You wonder what makes them move in such wild synchronized dances. They are called self-organizing or "emergent systems".
Photographer Thomas Jackson focuses on this phenomenon in his ongoing series of photographs called "Emergent Behavior". His twist is to replace the naturally occurring swarms with man-made items such as plastic cups and Post-It notes or to arrange lifeless items such as dead leaves into a lifelike flurry.
On his website Jackson talks about his series:
The images attempt to tap into the fear and fascination those phenomena (swarms) tend to evoke while creating an uneasy interplay between the natural and the manufactured and the real and the imaginary. At the same time, each image is an experiment in juxtaposition. By constructing the pieces from unexpected materials and placing them in environments where they seem least to belong I aim to tweak the margins of our visual vocabulary and to invite fresh interpretations of everyday things.
The often brightly colored objects definitely fit the description of fresh.
In an interview with This Is Colossal, Jackson talks about how the images are made. Everything in the photos are real, either strung together or hung by wire. That connective material isn't visible in the final product as they are Photoshopped out to create the airiness.
Jackson reports struggling with the role of Photoshop, with the goal of aiming to use it as little as possible to come as close as possible to a "real time image."
It could be argued the art in Jackson's images comes in the inspiration to use expected items to represent a fascinating natural phenomenon. Whether or not they are retouched by Photoshop really doesn't matter much in the end when the subject matter in this case is so interesting to behold.
Plus, you sort of expect there's been some wizardry involved — after all how else would you get cheese balls or glow sticks to pose so nicely?