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Video: An incredible microscopic look at plankton in motion shows the beauty of the oft-ignored organism: Digital Photography Review


Dutch filmmaker and photographer Jan van Ijken combines his passion for art and science in his photography and videography. He has recently created a short film, Planktonium, that showcases the ‘unseen world of living microscopic plankton.’

The short film is a detailed look at plankton through microscopes. The film, presented without voiceover, includes a sound composition from Norwegian artist Jana Winderen. Of Winderen’s audio work, van Ijken says, ‘She is recording audio environments and creatures which are hard for humans to access, both physically and aurally – deep under water, inside ice or in frequency ranges inaudible to the human ear.’

Phytoplankton are an underappreciated organism. They produce half of all oxygen on Earth through photosynthesis. Zooplankton are an important part of the food chain in the oceans. Plankton also have an important role to play in the global carbon cycle. The tiny organisms have far-reaching impacts that far outweigh their miniscule size.

In his Director Statement, Jan van Ijken writes, ‘What I find most interesting is that the plankton is very abundant in all waters around us. However, hardly anyone is aware of the presence of the countless creatures, their stunning beauty and the crucial role they play in the ecosystem. They are only becoming visible through the microscope. Some organisms have been on Earth for many millions of years, sometimes in unchanged form. Since I discovered plankton, I’ve become addicted to it. Every time I go out with my plankton net, I am curious about what I will find and I am always amazed by my finds. Every sea, ditch and lake have its own biotope and there are also major differences per season.’

Image credit: Jan van Ikjen

This isn’t Jan van Ikjen’s first foray into using microscopes for visual art. In addition to numerous other short films and a trio of photography books, van Ijken has also twice earned recognition in the prestigious Nikon Small World microphotography contest, including a ninth place finish for a photo of a water flea carrying embryos and peritrichs.

The video above is only a short version of Planktonium. The full 4K version is available to rent and purchase. For additional information, click here.



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