Under Alien Seas: Stunning Portraits of Modeled Glass Sea Creatures

Guido Mocafico—Hamiltons Gallery/Natural History Museums of Dublin and Geneva
Guido Mocafico—Hamiltons Gallery/Natural History Museums of Dublin and Geneva
Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka — Glaucus longicirrus

Italian still-life photographer Guido Mocafico has shot masterful portraits of terrifically diverse subjects, from weapons and money to roses and reptiles.

His latest project combines his love of craftsmanship and nature. While the images may look as if they document beings from another planet, or perhaps earthly beasties seen under a microscope, they in fact depict meticulous scientific models of (real-life) sea creatures.

Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team from a long line of Czechoslovakian glassmakers, crafted figurines such as these from the 1860s to the 1930s. Theirs was “a monk’s attitude,” Mocafico tells TIME. “They spent their whole lives—all day and night and weekends—[making] models.”

The results are so exquisite, so beautiful, it’s hard to believe they were made as educational tools for science museums and universities, and not as pieces designed for art galleries.

As Cornell University’s Blaschka Collection notes, “today we see photographs, film and videos of undersea creatures in more color, detail and motion than their models could ever show. Yet looking at these artifacts now, our eyes are entranced less by their teaching function than by their marvelous craft.”

It is exactly that marvelous attention to craft that comes through in the strange and beautiful work of the Blaschkas, and of Mocafico himself.

“When I put it under my light,” Mocafico says, “it just opens up and reveals to you an unbelievable universe that you do not expect when you look at the piece with your eyes”


Guido Mocafico is a Swiss-born Italian photographer based in Paris. He is represented by Hamiltons Gallery in London and Bernheimer gallery in Munich

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.


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