The collector: Anders Damgaard, Denmark.
The collection: Amber.
The story behind the collection...
I've always been a very curious person and had an interest in nature, philosophy and dissemination of knowledge. Last year I completed a 3 year education at art school (BGK Holstebro). In art, I work with conceptual art and street art. Museums only show art to a selected group but when art comes out into the street you communicate with everyone. Art is a medium whereby you can enter and affect the average person and open their eyes to issues and problems they would never be confronted with.
I've always been interested in nature, but since I was 19 I've had an increased interest in this area. My interest in natural science led me to work with amber. Using amber you can disseminate knowledge in a new way and show how amazing the world is and how many small details we overlook in everyday life.
Thinking philosophically about amber and time is interesting. Ever since I was little I've believed that it was not possible to look back in time, but amber serves as the window into a vanished world - a second as forever frozen in time. It provides a wider perspective on our lives, the earth and evolution - how short life is and how small our problems are compared with the big issues. I always have a piece of amber in my pocket as it reminds me how small and unimportant my problems are when it all gets too much.
There are many different types of amber around the world, My collection of inclusions in amber consists of: Copal (young amber) from Colombia and Madagascar, and amber from Borneo (20 MYO), Mexico (20-28 MYO), the Dominican republic (20-30 MYO), Baltic (30-50 MYO), Chinese Fu Shun (50 MYO), Canadian Coalmont and Medicine Hat (70-80 MYO), Japan Kuji (85-87 MYO), New Jersey (90 - 94 MYO) Burmese Myanmar (99-112 MYO), Lebanese (120-135 MYO), English Weald Hastings (140 MYO) and Turkish amber. To put this in perspective, the oldest fossils of modern humans are around 70,000 years old and the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.
For me, amber is just the medium, it's what exists inside the amber that is my focus. When you work with inclusions in amber you are forced to take a focus - mine is beetles in amber (I have approximately 150 pieces). In total I have around 750 pieces with inclusions, including 236 pieces with inclusions from the Cretaceous period, the time when the dinosaurs lived, and approximately 90 pieces of New Jersey amber. My collection includes several rarities, inclusions that are only found once or entirely new species.
Dissemination of my knowledge and collection has always been my main purporse. Through my website I aim to create an online library of fossil ecosystems, so that schools, colleges, universities, researchers, collectors and anyone else who is interested can go and study and see the material. I lay great emphasis on the visual field, on creating pictures that capture people's interest. I hope that my images appeal even to those who don't have an interest in nature and amber and that they will encourage people to open their eyes to new things. I like to have good colours, angles and depth in my pictures so that they set the imagination going. It takes many hours to make a perfect picture. Each picture is composed of approximately 50 images overlaid onto each other and then adapted and edited a little bit. That way I can show them as they appear to me when I see them in my stereo microscope, but it is always more amazing to me to see them with my own eyes.
I collect in many other areas as well, but all around natural science and to help me understand the world I find in amber. When you work with amber you work broadly as you find all sorts of things in amber. Some of my pieces contain the hair of mammals, so I also collect the hair of living mammals. I have a folder filled with plastic pockets with small bags of hair from various animals so that I can study the differences. The collection includes the hair of extinct mammals such as the mammoth. I have a collection of living insects too, this helps me to recognise the various families found in amber. I'm also interested in dinosaur eggshells. It is deeply fascinately to look at such a shell and think that it has surrounded a living dinosaur. I plan to make a series of photographs of these too.
All Images © Anders Leth Damgaard and used with his kind permission.