Culture

Picture from an exhibition

Snowflake by Wilson Bentley

Words: Ellie Costigan

“For more than 100 years, Wilson Bentley has had legions of private admirers. Now, his legend is shifting away from the science lab, towards the museum and gallery,” says James Brett, founder of The Gallery of Everything. 

Born in 1865 in Vermont, USA, Wilson was a dairy farmer, who from a young age had an insatiable fascination for snow. Having been home-schooled, he used his microscope—given to him on his 15th birthday—to examine the swathes of snowflakes that surrounded his home in rural Jericho for much of the year, fueled by his desire to understand these “exquisite lineaments… from cloudland”.

At first he tried to capture his findings by pencil, but soon grew frustrated. By adapting a microscope to a bellows camera, however, he eventually, through years of trial and error, became the first man to photograph a single snow crystal, in 1885. “Bentley was far more than a passionate hobbyist; he was an adventurer, who realised the potential of microphotography and used it to capture the impossible individuality of each and every snowflake,” says James.

Gaining traction
He went on to produce thousands of stunning photographs which revolutionised the field of photomicrography and gained attention the world over. “Now, 130 years later, his work is gaining traction not only as science, but as art.”

Following this “important re-contextualisation”, here we’ll see a collection of the artist’s rare original glass plates, alongside a number of photographs of snowflakes, ice crystals and frosts from the turn of the century, in what will be the first significant exhibition of Wilson ‘Snowflake’ Bentley’s work in the UK.

The new Chiltern Street gallery’s Journeys into the Outside exhibition will also feature works from artists such as Indian landscape architect Nek Chand Saini, and the multi-disciplinary French artist Chomo, inspired by the Channel 4 documentary series of the same name which sought to invite “British viewers to explore some of the world’s most astonishing art environments”.

Wilson ‘Snowflake’ Bentley & Jarvis Cocker’s Journeys Into The Outside
Until 1st January
The Gallery of Everything