Published January 08, 2015
More than two feet of snow have been dumped on the Mid-Atlantic, and it's easy to forget that each flake in that white blanket is unique. The pioneering work of one man makes it easy to remember.
In 1885, Wilson Bentley began photographing snowflakes, managing to capture more than 5,000 of the tiny ice crystals before his death in 1931.
Photography at the time was much closer to science than art, and by connecting a bellows camera to a microscope to capture the tiny beauty of the flake, Bentley was pushing the bounds of both.
Carl Hammer recently showed off the work of "Snowflake Bentley" in his Chicago gallery. In an interview with PBS, Hammer claimed that Bentley really bridged that gap between science and art. "[He] knew and recognized in the elements of nature a beauty that he was revealing, and therefore I think he can very well claim it as his art."
Bentley saw his microphotographs as more than scientific contribution. In a 1910 article published in the journal Technical World, he wrote, "Here is a gem bestrewn realm of nature possessing the charm of mystery, of the unknown, sure richly to reward the investigator."