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The First Snowflake Photographs

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Game of Thrones isn’t poised to reappear until April 2017, which makes the inescapable fact that winter is coming seem even all the more unfair. However, we have to admit that there are some plus sides to the coldest, darkest and downright most difficult season of the year. There’s hot tea, flannel everything all the time, and, of course, there are snowflakes.

Hyperallergic recently posted a piece highlighting Wilson Bentley, the first known photographer to capture the snowflake and its ephemeral wonder on film. Bentley’s work is impressive both scientifically and artistically, especially considering he wasn’t trained for either.

After delicately catching a falling snowflake on a tray, Bentley only had a few minutes at best to take his shot, careful all the while to breathe away from the tiny specimen lest the warmth cause it to sublime. In an early 1900s issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine, he described the quiet frenzy of his winter’s quest:

Quick, the first flakes are coming; the couriers of the coming snow storm. Open the skylight, and directly under it place the carefully prepared blackboard, on whose ebony surface the most minute form of frozen beauty may be welcome from cloud-land. The mysteries of the upper air are about to reveal themselves, if our hands are deft and our eyes quick enough.

The podcast Radiolab also features Bentley in its episode Crystal Bliss.


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