In 1954, Lennart Nilsson devoted himself to a documentation of the life of ants. He spent months in the forest near his home, assisted by his father, Nils. His photo essay was published that year in the illustrated magazine Se, followed by a full-length book, Ants, in 1959, with 101 photographs, and written material by Carl H. Lindroth, professor of entomology. Se called the pictures “the photo essay the whole world wants to see”.
“For years, I had harboured the idea of portraying the life of ants in photographs taken directly in their own world, in their natural surroundings. The pictures of ants I had seen published before were mainly intended for determining their species. They had been killed first, and then photographed on stiff legs and in unnatural positions. I wanted to take live pictures…
…Sometimes it just looks like the ants know what they are doing. They run around and are hyperactive, but they don’t really know why. They don’t think, they just do things.
There are obvious similarities between ants and our society. It felt great to get the whole story published in Se in 1954, since these pictures gave access to an otherwise invisible world.”
“The question is whether, during the years when he was engaged in this work, he got closer to the life of ants than the ants themselves…” (Harry Martinson, Nobel laureate of literature)