The First Snowflake

The First Snowflake

Snow Crystal by Wilson Alwyn Bentley (American, 1865–1931) | Gelatin silver print ca. 1910


Did you know the very first snowflake photograph was taken by a self-educated farmer from Jericho, Vermont?

Wilson Alwyn "Snowflake" Bentley is said to be the first to capture the stunning details of a single snowflake on a blackboard, which he quickly transferred to a microscope fitted to a bellows camera. After many a melted flake, Bentley successfully photographed his first snowflake in 1885.

They say no two snowflakes are alike, and after photographing more than 5,000 single flakes during his lifetime, Bentley found this was true. His work was acquired by universities and museums around the world, including the piece pictured above featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's online collection.

In 1925, Bentley commented on his work, revealing his passion for his art:

Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.


We are grateful to pioneers in photography like Wilson Bentley. Through his lens, he was able to magnify the frail and fleeting beauty and brilliant design of what the naked eye alone cannot see.


Wilson Alwyn Bentley behind his camera. Image from
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