a journey through cloudland*

Note: Even more to bring to this encore post; a friend alerted me to Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov who is following in Wilson Bentley's path— fashioning a DIY attachment to his camera and capturing stunning images of snowflakes. See images at bottom. Yet another Russian, Andrew Osokin, has done the same just with a macro lens, documenting snowflakes as they touch the ground, moments before they disappear.

Kljatov is most in the spirit of Bentley with his personal intensity for the project and home made mechanical ingenuity. He also, like Bentley, photographs the snowflakes against a homemade black backdrop. Kljatov's specimens have a crystalline sharpness. Otherworldy, they look alien and almost unsettling. They are, for me, too clinical to have the same resonance as Bentley's soft, idiosyncratic and sometimes humorous work.

Also of note: A couple years ago this Talk of the Town (All Alike by Adam Gopnik) mentioning "Snowflake" Bentley was a beautiful adjunct to this post.

Wilson Alwyn Bentley
(February 9, 1865 - December 23, 1931) was born in Jericho, Vermont, in a farmhouse that remained his lifelong home. He was home-schooled and never ventured far from Jericho. At 19, after he combined two treasured presents– a microscope and a bellows camera–
Bentley succeeded in capturing the world's first photomicrograph of a snow crystal or snowflake. Working outside, of course, he caught each crystal on a black board and transferred it rapidly to a microscope slide. Doing this he was able to create about 5000 images over the course of his life.

In town, Bentley was considered odd and was known to many neighbors as the "Snowflake Man" because of his quiet demeanor and unusual preoccupation. Although he was a gifted musician– he played piano, organ, clarinet, coronet, and violin, as well as composed music –he devoted himself to his photography
and study of snow.

In 1931 Bentley worked with William J. Humphreys of the U.S. Weather Bureau to publish Snow Crystals, a monograph illustrated with 2,500 photographs. After picking up his copies of the newly published book he walked home in a snowstorm. He died of pneumonia at his farm on December 23.

. . . . .
"The rare delight of seeing for the first time this exquisite lineaments under a microscope, the practical certainty that never again will one be found just like this one... To perpetuate each masterpiece the image of each of each rare gem in the photograph, before its matchless beauty is forever lost (to us) is an experience is so rare so truly delightful that once undergone is never forgotten...Was ever life history written in more dainty hieroglyphics!"–
Wilson Alwyn Bentley
. . . . .
Bentley donated his collection of original glass-plate photomicrographs of snow crystals to the Buffalo Museum of Science
*Bentley's description of a snow crystal's trajectory

Thanks to
Herbert Pfostl/Blindpony for alerting me to Bentley.

Snowflakes by Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov. Read more about his technique on his blog



Snow Days

blizzard 1922
c. 1830s. Why the women are out in snow in short sleeves is a mystery
"Diana in the Snow", 1915 Jessie Tarbox Beals
Diana was the statue atop the old Madison Square Garden which used to actually be on Madison Square

c. 1940, Shorpy
Snow removal, 1908 NYC
"Snow man— Happy Days”, 1888
Snow shoeing, 1886


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