Lennart Nilsson

Swedish, 1922–2017

Internationally renowned photographer, Nilsson is one of the most important photographers of the history of photography and science. His curiosity and fascination for the human life and physical body, brought him into the field of science and biology, and made him a technically groundbreaking scientific photographer.

Born 1922 in Strängnäs, Sweden, Nilsson began his career as a photojournalist in the middle of the 1940s. His international breakthrough came with a cover story for LIFE magazine titled Drama of Life Before Birth, published in 1965. It took Nilsson seven years to complete the assignment for the prestigious magazine. Drama of Life Before Birth continues to be one of LIFE’s most important stories, along with the reportages on the murder of John F Kennedy in 1963 and the landing of the moon in 1969.

A Child is Born is Nilsson’s most well-known and classic series, which shows the development of the human embryo, taking the viewer on an amazing journey through the mystery of life before birth, capturing the creation of a human being from conception to birth. 

Being able to explain the inexplicable and make the invisible visible, was the great challenge that captivated Nilsson. In association with researchers and with the help of advanced, specially designed equipment, Nilsson documented the inside of a human being. Following the breakthrough with A Child is Born, Nilsson continued his work and collaboration with researchers and scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, until his passing in 2017.

The first edition of Nilsson’s book, A Child is Born, was published in 1965, and featured his photographs of the human embryo. Since then, the book has been translated into more than 20 languages and published in six editions. His other books include Myror (Ants) and Liv i hav (Life in Ocean), 1959, Se människan (Behold Man), 1973, Nära naturen (Close to Nature), 1984, and Kroppens försvar (Body Victorious), 1985. Nilsson also created several award-winning films, such as Sagan om Livet (The Saga of Life, 1982), which won two Emmy Awards.