"Nature Alphabet"
18" X 24" Poster

Anyone can see beauty in the delicate design of a butterfly's wing or in the graceful curve of a flower. But how many of us can look at that wing and see the alphabet? Or see a smiling face in the petals of an orchid?

For the past four decades, Kjell Sandved has done just that. In his posters, prints and his classic children’s book Butterfly Alphabet, the naturalist, photographer and longtime Smithsonian Institution lecturer has shared with the world -- particularly with children -- his unique ability to see meaning in the tiniest details.

Now, Kjell (pronounced “Shell,” like one of his favorite subjects) has done it again with a new collection of letters and numbers spotted in the most unexpected of places: ferns, orchids, birds, crabs, seashells, and brittle stars. They were discovered in the same way as the first -- by accident.

This is how Sandved describes his latest discovery:

"My wife Barbara and I were going through our slide archive. Looking closely at details, images started popping up of letters and numbers in trees, butterflies, beetles, shells and other natural objects.

With closed eyes, I sat back, wondering, ‘How in the world could I have been so dumb?’ Here I have had all these images lying around for decades -- enough to create several distinctly different alphabets written by nature's own hand."

Among those letters:

Kjell photographed this long necked animated “S” at Kenya’s Lake Nakuru where more than a million flamingos may congregate.
3 -Haworthia Flowers. Admired by artists and scientists throughout the ages, their small size and infinite variation have fascinated collectors since the 17th century.
N - Olive Shell, Great Barrier Reef. With a glossy sheen and a great variety of abstract patterns, ribbons, curves and tent shapes, olives are especially attractive, and natives across the Pacific islands have used them as money for centuries.

Kjell, now retired from the Smithsonian, continues to reside in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Barbara and a house full of photographs.

For publications, editors and feature writers may require free information and photographs on the discovery of the Nature Alphabet by e-mail: wingsabc@aol.com or calling 1-800 ABC-WING.

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“(We) would love to see the world through Kjell Sandved’s eyes. It would be like putting on a pair of magic glasses that revealed nature’s hidden designs, such as the tiny alphabet Kjell discovered in the wings of butterflies and moths.”

         - Patricia Chargot, Detroit Free Press

“There's one trait that characterizes our Smithsonian that can't be photographed or printed in a brochure, or placed in a display case. It's that wondrous human characteristic we call enthusiasm. People whose enthusiasm is wonderfully contagious are Smithsonian people like naturalist photographer Kjell B. Sandved.”

         - Robert McC. Adams, Smithsonian Secretary Emeritus

Read more about Kjell's story

"Up to his neck in water"
Sandved filming butterfly behavior