Every snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it.
W. A. Bentley, Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1922
Snow, the beautiful snow, as the raptured poet sang, winter’s spotless downy blanket for forest and field, has ever challenged pen to describe, and brush to paint, its marvelous effects. Nor is the aesthetic urge of its very tiniest flake or smallest crystal that gently floats from heaven to earth any less compelling. It is even more insistent – doubly more- for it not only quickens that response to understand, our curiosity to know, the how and the why of this purest gem of surpassing beauty and of a myriad myriad forms. But it is so tiny, so fragile, and so evanescent save in the coldest of weather, that few, very few indeed, have come to know the snow crystal at first hand. All the rest of us must get our knowledge of this endless gallery of Nature’s delicate tracery and jewel design through the careful drawings and faithful photographs, microphotographs, by that devoted few whose enthusiasm never wanes and whose patience never tires.
W. J. Humphreys, SNOW CRYSTALS, Washington, D. C. , 1931
Carl Hammer Gallery is pleased to present 20 original, vintage photographs from a lifetime body of monumental work by a visionary scientist/artist, Wilson A. Bentley. Born in 1865, in Jericho, Vermont, Wilson Bentley grew up on a farm in a region where the annual snowfall is approximately 120 inches. Largely self-taught, he, at the age of seventeen, acquired a photomicroscope and began looking at everything natural especially all things related to moisture. In winter, while his peers busied themselves building snow forts and throwing snowballs, Wilson A. Bentley caught single snowflakes and studied them. Gifted and imaginative, he devised a method of catching snow on a board, and when he felt he had isolated a fine crystal from the others, he would go to an unheated shed, transfer the crystal to a glass slide, then focus his camera, letting available light through a tiny aperture, leaving the shutter open for several seconds, sometimes up to a minute and a half. In his lifetime, Wilson A. Bentley photographed 5, 381 crystals. No two are alike.
Though produced in considerably primitive conditions, the photographs are masterpieces of the intricate, infinite patterns in nature, never before imaginable. Wilson A. Bentley captured the astonishing beauty of what he called “gems, wrought by blizzards. ” Today, the knowledge we have, in large part, about the complexity and the beauty of the snowflake is due to the scholarly efforts of this remarkable pioneer. Bentley’s prodigious body of work, SNOW CRYSTALS, was published in 1931 in New York, N. Y. , by the McGraw-Hill book publishers. That same year, less than a month after the book’s release, Wilson A. Bentley walked home in a raging snow blizzard to make yet more photos of his beloved form of precipitation, and, contracting pneumonia from that walk, died two weeks later.
This exhibition is a celebration of all things small and seemingly inconsequential. Wilson A. Bentley inherited the name “Snowflake” Bentley in a ceremony 40 years after his death by the children of Jericho, Vermont, observing the opening of a museum in his honor.