There is a whole other world that is smaller than our eyes can perceive. Diatoms are among these; these single-celled algal organisms are some of the most ecologically significant and abundant, and are also some of the most distinctive, displaying beautiful, natural forms, thanks to their cell walls made of silica. They could also be part of an emerging “diatom economy,” as scientists are discovering new ways to create cost-effective and eco-friendly products with these unicelluar beings.
In the artistic realm, UK-based microbiological artist and “diatomist” Klaus Kemp has been working with these microscopic forms for years, arranging diatoms into marvelous microscopic artworks.
Kemp saw his first diatom at age sixteen, and has since dedicated his life to discovering, collecting and artistically mounting diatoms on slides. Kemp is inspired by Victorian diatom collectors and Johann Diedrich Möller and R. I. Firth, and he has over the years become a master of this evolving art form, creating micron-scaled arrangements that are sought after by collectors worldwide. You can see Kemp at work in this short film “Diatomist” by Matthew Killip.
Diatom species number over 100,000 and can be found in all kinds of waters. Climate change has a big impact on their populations, with scientists investigating how climate change is affecting these tiny organisms, along with the rest of the local ecosystem, especially in the Arctic.
Showing an entire microscopic world that goes unnoticed everyday, Kemp’s work reveals what is unseen and yet is completely astonishing, right in front of our noses. More over at Klaus Kemp’s website.
Photo: by Klaus Kemp
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