Jan van IJken is a filmmaker and photographer in Leiden, the Netherlands, working on the interface of art and science. In his latest works, he reveals secrets in nature like the murmurations of starlings, the genesis of life and the unseen world of microscopic plankton. He is interested in microscopy, nature, biology, evolution, and embryology.

In earlier years he published three photobooks on social-documentary subjects like Divinity in Eastern Europe and the relationship of man and animal.

He developed a keen eye for light and composition and specializes on autonomous long-term projects. His work has been published and awarded internationally.

Jan van IJken is a photographer, filmmaker and microscopist working on art and science, secrets in nature, plankton and embryology.


Planktonium – short film (2021, 4K Video, colour, 15:23) and photobook

Planktonium is a short film and photobook about the unseen world of living microscopic plankton. The film includes a sound composition by Jana Winderen. It is a voyage into a secret universe, inhabited by alien-like creatures

Planktonium had its world premiere at Ji.hlava Documentary Film Festival, CZ and was screened at many international film festivals and art galleries.

The Dutch Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden acquired one copy of the short film Planktonium for its collection and the film has been part of Leiden European City of Science 2022 program.

The film received the J. B. CZECZ AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at Włodzimierz Puchalski International Nature Film Festival, Łódź, PL 2022

A short sequence of plankton footage was featured in Planet Earth III, Ocean Episode, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Six photos were nominated for a Wildscreen Panda Award 2022, category Photo Story, and in the Nikon Small World competition two photos were awarded 9th place / honourable mention, plus one honourable mention for a videoclip from Planktonium.

The photo series was published in National Geographic Magazine NL, New Scientist, Oceanographic Magazine, NRC Handelsblad, Algemeen Dagblad, Süddeutsche Zeitung among many others.

Radio and TV interviews by Vroege Vogels and M in the Netherlands

Photobook Planktonium:
English edition by Terra Publishers
German edition by Tecklenborg Verlag

Becoming – short film (2018, HD Video, colour, 06:15)

BECOMING is a short film about the miraculous genesis of animal life. In great microscopic detail, we see the ‘making of’ a salamander in its transparent egg from fertilization to hatching.

Becoming has been screened at more than 25 international film festivals and received the Award for best short documentary at the Innsbruck nature film festival 2018, the Visual Science Award at Imagine Science Abu Dhabi 2019 and a honorary mention at Academia Film, Olomouc, CZ. The film was awarded Vimeo Staff Pick of the Month and was nominated for Vimeo Best of 2019 (top 10 experimental films).

In 2019 the film went ‘viral’ on internet and has been watched by millions of people. It was published on the website of National Geographic, Aeon, Colossal, Live Science, IFLScience and numerous others. The Dutch TV show De Wereld Draait Door screened the film, including an interview.

The art of flying – short film (2015, HD Video, black&white, 06:52) and photo series

Short film about “murmurations”: the mysterious flights of the Common Starling

The film has been screened at more than 50 international film festivals, galleries, biennales, etc. and was awarded ‘Best art film’ at Pärnu Film Festival, Estonia, selected for National Geographic Short Film showcase and awarded a Vimeo Staff Pick.

Nevermore – short film (2013 HD Video, colour, 03:37)

Film about the fast and almost instinctive creative process of action painting

Facing Animals – short film (2012, HD Video, colour, 29:31)

Debut film about the complex and often bizarre relationship between man and animal

Grand prix short films at Split Film festival, Croatia and screenings at international film festivals.

Dierbaar (Precious animals)  – photobook (2005) about the relationship between man and animal

Precious Animals (2005) is a photo-project about the relationship between animals and humans, focusing on animals as manufactured consumer products on the one hand, with efficiency playing the leading role, and these very consumers and their habit of pampering their own pets and other cuddly two and four-legged creatures, on the other hand.

Precious Animals was commissioned by the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad as part of their series ‘Document Nederland’. The photos were exhibited in photo museum Huis Marseille, Amsterdam from Nov 2005 – Feb 2006, along with a special supplement of NRC Handelsblad and the publication of the photobook Dierbaar.

The series was published in many international newspapers and magazines (e.g. De Morgen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, El Mundo Magazine, Eight, Mother Jones Magazine and Days Japan) and received a Humanity Photo Award, an International Photography Award and was selected for American Photography. The series was screened at photo festival Visa pour l’image, Perpignan, France

Awards: Humanity Photo Award, China, 3rd prize Daily Life 2006, International Photography Awards, 3rd prize Photo Essays 2006, Black and White Spider Awards, Nomination Fine Arts 2007

Collections: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, John Cleary Gallery Houston USA, Museum of Fine Arts Houston USA

Radio interviews (Dutch only): Vroege Vogels, 2 hour special / interview 2005 and Kunststof Radio, 1 hour interview 2005

New Neighboursphotobook (2004) about the enlargement of the E.U.

A touch of Divinity – photobook (2001) about religion in Eastern Europe

The publication of the book was followed by travelling exhibition in monumental churches in the Netherlands. The project received a Humanity Photo Award, China, 2nd prize Daily Life in 2002

Interview Kunststof radio (in Dutch) 15 November 2005