klaus kemp and the victorian art of diatom arrangement

The Victorians were a little odd. I don’t think anyone is going to argue with me about that. Sometimes they were off-puttingly odd, like when they woven funeral bonnets out of the hair of their deceased loved ones. Sometimes they were amazingly, beautifully odd.

Diatoms are single celled algae that create silica shells around themselves–they encase themselves in little glass boxes. The Victorians made art out of these (and out of butterfly scales), tiny arrangements of a hundred or more diatoms. One whole work of art would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence.

As far as I know, no one except maybe serial killers weaves hair bonnets anymore, but a few people are still making beautifully microscopic art.

Klaus Kemp and his diatom photographs:

The Diatomist from Matthew Killip on Vimeo.

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