Free Press Journal

Micro-photographer Wim Vanegmond finds beauty through the microscope


Wim VanEgmond Micro-photographer

Meet someone who is a dreamer, crazy, creative and is always thinking out of the box.  Micro-photographer Wim Van Engmond started his career as a painter and photographer. Born in the Netherlands in 1966, he studied at the Rotterdam art school until 1990. He has used his artistic skills to transform reality to create abstract images. But his uniqueness lies in the photography he does through microscope and stereoscopy. Inspired by Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, discoverer of the micro world, he is currently researching the discovery of microbes.

His various web pages, like the online Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms, have inspired many people to start looking through a microscope. He has created an online gallery of all creatures tiny and tinier. To gather his collection, he sampled organisms from anywhere he could find — water, scooping up critters from urban puddles and country ditches, as well as the ocean. From desmids to diatoms, Sun animalcules and Amoebas Rotifers, worms and insect larva, he captured all the stunning features of these normally invisible creatures using a standard light microscope.

When I started working as an artist, I had to make a lot of efforts to create abstract images. Nowadays, I only have to sweep my plankton net through the canal in front of my house to obtain the weirdest forms.

Q- What is your goal?

I have always been inspired by science and scientific imagery. I like to operate in a field somewhere in between art and science. This is the reason why I want to show the beauty and weirdness of micro life.  My goal is to portray the microscopic world and to save one of the planet’s most beautiful creatures. This is one art subject that has been ignored for centuries and finally deserves its due. I have specialised in stereo-imaging for optical microscopy and now through exhibitions, articles, and image galleries that are posted in numerous spots on the web. I want to reach maximum people interested this field.

Q – What led you to such an intense interest in microscopy?

It’s a big world here on Earth, but some of the most beautiful things on this planet can only be found when you look up close — really up close.  My key interest is in the portraying of small organisms and other microscopic subjects. I have always preferred to click photographs that are not just depictions of familiar objects, mainly in order to emphasise the formal photographic aspects as well. My favourite technique is darkfield illumination. It is very easy to make and gives a dramatic effect. When you observe a sample of pond water with dark-field illumination, microscopy becomes ‘indoor space travelling’. Also when I discovered 3D photography, I started to experiment with all kinds of techniques. These images were made without the aid of the computer, using 19th century special effects.

Q – How easy has your work become with digital imaging techniques?

Beyond still images, at present video has become a powerful tool for artists and scientists to show the life and movement they see under the microscope every day. When I started working as an artist I had to make a lot of efforts to create abstract images. Nowadays, I only have to sweep my plankton net through the canal in front of my house to obtain the weirdest forms. In this type of work there is no need to deform reality in order to create abstract images and thus I investigate the most unexpected places.

Q – What is your project Microbial Art Climatology?

A- It is a new scientific method to qualify the value of artworks by means of microscopic organisms. Since 2006, I have worked on a series of autonomous photographs called Magnified Landscapes.

Q – What’s some of the fun stuff you have done?

We had a theatre play of Shakespeare which was enacted by the microbes. Also, we recorded piano music practiced by a common water flea. First light of the phenomenon was obtained by using darkfield microscopy.

Q – What will be your guidelines for a person who wants to pursue microphotography?

A pool in a garden is actually a miniature underwater jungle teeming with life. It is relatively easy to find these creatures yourself. The easiest way is to grab a bit of the green scum that grows in a pond and squeeze the water from it in a jar. Many single-celled organisms and other microscopic life forms can be found this way. One can examine them with a hand lens but for the smaller microorganisms, one needs a microscope.