snow: up close and personal…
Posted in nature, photographers February 1st, 2010 by pia

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Last week in New York, ten of Wilson A Bentley (a.k.a the snowflake man)’s incredible snow crystal photographs  – which date back to the end of the 19th century  – went on sale at the American Antiques Show. The vintage images are breathtaking…

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snowflakes

“Every crystal was a masterpiece of design, and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost” said Bentley back in 1925…

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According to an article in The Guardian, Bentley’s interest with snow crystals began when he received a microscope for his 15th birthday: “He became spellbound by their beauty, complexity and endless variety” (it’s nice to know I’m not the only one obsessed with snow!).

“Bentley started trying to draw the flakes but the snow melted before he could finish. His parents eventually bought him a camera and he spent two years trying to capture images of the tiny, fleeting crystals. He caught falling snowflakes by standing in the doorway with a wooden tray as snowstorms passed over. The tray was painted black so he could see the crystals and transfer them delicately onto a glass slide. To study the snow crystals, Bentley rigged his bellows camera up to the microscope but found he could not reach the controls to bring them into focus. He overcame the problem through the imaginative use of wheels and cord.” (as quoted by Ian Sample, science correspondent for The Guardian, Thursday January 21, 2010)

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The method of singling out a snowflake to photograph apparently hasn’t changed in all that time. “You basically let the crystal fall on something, black or dark-coloured, and then you have to pick it up with a toothpick or brush and put it on a glass slide,” says Kenneth Libbrecht, professor of physics and snowflake enthusiast.

Bentley’s snowflake photographs have inspired people all over the world for over a hundred years – quilters, photographers, jewelers, and artists of all kinds have been captivated by Bentley’s work. I, am now one of them.

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Extra tidbits:

+There is a museum dedicated to Bentley’s work at an old mill in his hometown in Vermont. It houses about 2,000 of his vintage images. I must go.

+I first found Bentley’s images and story at the ever lovely Pacha Design – please read sammy and glenn’s beautiful post(thank you again guys for such inspiration!)

+View and read the full telegraph article – there are 21 images which tell the beautiful story of snowflake bentley’s work.

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it just keeps getting better.


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18 Comments

  1. vintage simple says

    I am completely spellbound as well… I’ve always loved the fact that each snowflake is unique, much like a person’s fingerprint… But I had no idea about Bentley. Thank you for sharing this, Pia.

    warmly,
    -maria

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  2. Karen S. says

    Thank you for this beautiful posting!
    By the way, I was at the amazing and gigantic New York Gift Show today, and I saw “Paris Made by Hand” prominently displayed at the Random House booth. It’s such a lovely and important book – we went to “Tombe du Camion” (among others) because of it and fell in love.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  3. mina says

    This is just breathtaking! First time seeing these images and I am blown away, what a great idea and how flawlessly executed. Thanks for sharing Pia!

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  4. Maia says

    Oh my, they are stunning! It seems like a cliche until you see them again and stand speechless in the face of nature’s wonder. Absolutely mindboggling.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  5. Ivette says

    Amazing photos and so fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  6. Miranda B says

    Truely amazing! I did not know of Bentley’s work. What a clever child he was! So intricately beautiful. Thank you Pia for sharing this stunning bit of history.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  7. Kate says

    When I saw them I thought wow they look like diamonds, so I can see why they inspirer jewellers amongst others. The first photograph is amazing and it is a lovely story too. I wonder how much they sold for?

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  8. Tara Bradford says

    Thanks for highlighting Bentley’s amazing work. His snowflake photos are unparalleled. xo

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  9. Florai says

    Takes my breath away…thanks.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  10. Katherine says

    Thank you so much for sharing these. How perfect creation is.

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  11. lynne says

    stunning!

    February 1st, 2010 | #

  12. Leanne T says

    breathtaking is the right word! oh my!!

    February 2nd, 2010 | #

  13. ClaraAnne says

    Its just magical! I never gave much thought to the process when viewing similar pictures before but learning how much work & care goes into photographing that one special snowflake makes it all the more wondrous!

    February 2nd, 2010 | #

  14. Zo says

    Wow how simple and beautiful…so inspiring! Thanks Pia, you seem to find a little item/image/creation to inspire me all the time. You are like a little creative detective…finding amazing things all over the world! Thank you…for inspiring me!

    February 3rd, 2010 | #

  15. isabelle says

    amazing shots … we can admire the beauty of the snow everyday here !!

    February 8th, 2010 | #

  16. Aisha says

    amazing pictures pia..his works inspiring..im thinking of focusing my next coursework..upon his research and interest in snowflakes..Thank you for such an indepth post..and giving insight into his work..
    ai.

    February 11th, 2010 | #

  17. sammy says

    hi pia,

    so glad that we could inspire you again! aren’t the snowflake images just so beautiful …. as soon as we saw them & read the story, we just had to post about them (we are a little obsessed about snow too).

    welcome back from your trip, by the way, we are enjoying your stories about australia very much.

    sammy & glenn
    pachadesign

    February 13th, 2010 | #

  18. Titta det snöar! « Lilla tehuset says

    […] Jag älskar snö! Det gör även designern Pia Jane Bijkerk, som bor i husbåt på floden Amstel i Amsterdam. Hon har en mycket vacker blogg som jag verkligen kan rekommendera. Härom dagen publicerade hon ett inlägg om fotografen William A Bentley, ”the snowflake man”.  Denne Bentley har tagit underbara närbilder av snöflingor. Titta här bara! […]

    January 12th, 2011 | #


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