small invertebrates

Marine beauties

Researcher Fredrik Pleijel uses photographs in his research – when he describes new species, for example. This autumn, visitors could view his stunning photos of polychaete worms at Fotografiska Museet’s autumn show in Stockholm. In September 2016 he also received second prize in the 2016 Royal Society Publishing photography competition, a photo contest for animal and nature photos.

How did you get started photographing small invertebrates in the marine environment?
“It began as part of my research job. Colours and patterns contain valuable information that disappears as soon as animals are preserved, and photography is a way to document this information. So in the beginning I photographed ‘only’ polychaete worms. Then the scope of my photography grew to include all sorts of marine invertebrates.”

How are photography and research interconnected?
“Well, as I said, colours, patterns and shapes often are visible only when the animals are alive. And my job includes describing new species. Such descriptions are usually based on dead animals or sequence data (DNA), and if I can attach the information that is available with living animals, the descriptions become more complete. And of course, it’s an aesthetic experience when animals are so beautiful, and you are able to capture that.”