PhotographerMarissa Katarina Bergmann
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

Morihei Ueshiba held the belief that each person contains an entire universe. Through my experience interacting with people all over the world, I have interpreted this to discover that our freckles and moles point to uncharted constellations and hidden galaxies. These photographs are a meditation on inner and outer space, as well as an adventure into the infinite realm of human existence within this mysterious, ever-expanding universe.


This photographic series is an exploration of the intricate patterns that are woven into all of creation, especially those that overlap and combine the human sphere with the natural world. It began as an exploration of the human body as a canvas, integrating the languages of visual studies and photography with scientific concepts of neuroscience, astronomy, and human anatomy. Inspired by Carl Sagan’s idea that “we are all made of stardust,” my photographs aspire to express this sense of unity and peace with one another by painting star patterns directly onto the body that originate from the freckles and marks that already exist on each individual person. The resulting photographs appear as glimpses of night skies and scattered star clusters, hinting at hidden universes within and delicately unveiling the essence and individuality of each and every person that comes before my lens. These portraits are a meditation on inner and outer space, as well as an adventure into the infinite realm of human existence within this mysterious, ever-expanding universe. The beauty of our existence lies just as much in self-exploration and introspection as in expanding and discovering the outside world. My experiences as an artist interacting with people all over the world have led me to recognize this beauty as a unifying characteristic of all members of the human race.

About Photographer

Marissa Katarina Bergmann is an emerging photographer, filmmaker, and visual artist with a passion for experimental photographic processes and the power of visual expression. She graduated from Duke University in 2011, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Media Studies, Documentary Studies, and Photography. She has exhibited her photographs and films at various galleries in North Carolina including the Louise Brown Gallery, Perkins Library, and Kenan Institute for Ethics, and is currently part of a 3-month exhibition at the world-renowned Center for Documentary Studies. Her photographs have been published in a number of campus publications and online journals and she has received awards for both her still and moving images. In the fall of 2009, she attended Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy to study painting, darkroom photography, and bookmaking. She received a Benenson Award in the Arts to return in the summer of 2010 to study advanced darkroom photography with Romeo di Loreto. In her time abroad, she also participated in two group exhibitions at the Palazzo dei Cartelloni. For three years, she has facilitated the teaching efforts of Literacy Through Photography: a project that encourages children to explore their individuality by photographing and writing about their own lives. This experience has given her the opportunity to work with students of all ages in the United States and Arusha, Tanzania. Born and raised in a small desert valley in Southern California, she learned to appreciate quiet mountains and the peaceful night sky. She currently lives in Durham, NC and has been working on a 14-month-long photographic series titled “We Are All Made of Stardust.” Her work is inspired by the infinite nature of time, space, and the universe we live in.