Diatoms are single-celled organisms found in oceans all over the world. There are estimated to be 100,000 species of these micron-sized creatures in existence, and they play a crucial role as one of the main food sources for marine organisms, including fish, molluscs and tunicates, such as sea squirts.
Once you get them under the microscope, the diatoms will reveal the incredible glass shells that contain their tiny bodies. During the Victorian era - the second half of the 19th century - scientists would pop them under their microscopes and lay them out in complex and beautiful arrangements, and UK-based biologist Klaus Kemp is one of the last remaining scientists on Earth to keep the practice alive.
I was very curious to see if anyone still practiced diatom arrangement and also to find out how it was done. I managed to track down Klaus Kemp in the UK - he's really the only person doing this to a professional level (he's able to make a living from a small base of collectors) - and filmed with him for one afternoon in December 2013.
During the filming Klaus told me all the Victorian diatomists took their secrets to the grave, so there was no accurate information on the practice when he first started, aged sixteen. It has taken him years to be able to create these stunning microscopic slides of arranged diatoms, and although The Diatomist is a modest short film I hope it does some justice to what really is Klaus' life's work.
Watch the documentary below, and head to Neatorama to see more images created by Kemp. You can also read a tutorial for how to make your own diatom art, you know, if you happen to have some microscopic organisms and imaging equipment lying around.