Vermonters know snow. Most can trace their relationship with the substance along the shooting pains in their lower backs. That’s why Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley’s obsession was so unexpected. While his neighbors were cheering the coming of spring, he’d mourn each melting flake as “just that much beauty…gone, without leaving any record behind.”
Home-schooled and self-educated, Bentley became famous in 1885 when, at the age of 19, he was the first person to successfully photograph a single snowflake. Working from the family farm, he went on to create more than 5,000 photos, none of which, he famously noticed, was exactly like any other one. With each picture, he captured in the jagged symmetry of his subject an ethereal and fleeting beauty that broadened the fields of both photography and meteorology.
The humble Wilson Bentley Exhibit in Jericho displays many of his original slides and explores the far-reaching effects of the town’s most famous resident and his eccentric hobby. Although it’s open to debate whether his impact was greater in art or in science, most will agree that his photos are likely the most enduring things ever created in a Vermont woodshed.