ALISON POLLACK is a photographer specializing in making large the diminutive dwellers of the forest—Myxomycetes (commonly referred to as slime molds) and tiny fungi. Her work is featured in the Autumn 2021 issue feature, “What Slime Knows” by Lacy M. Johnson.
Her passion is finding, photographing, identifying and sharing these worlds to bring awareness to the fascinating organisms that exist right at our feet in the forest but are largely hidden to the naked eye.
Alison has always had a casual interest in photography, carrying a point and shoot camera on hikes to snap flowers and other things that caught her interest. When she retired from her work as an air quality consultant, she upgraded to a DSLR and began shooting landscapes. While hiking with her new DSLR, she began discovering the diversity of mushrooms that fruit in the San Francisco Bay Area’s winter rains.
It wasn’t until she found and photographed her first slime mold, however, that she got serious about mushroom and myxo photography. Her first find was the bright yellow fruiting bodies of Leocarpus fragilis, and she had no idea what it was. A Google search revealed slime molds to her for the first time and she was immediately smitten, staying up half the night reading about them. She quickly ordered her first macro lens so she could get more detailed shots.
Her forest visits quickly turned from hikes to countless hours on the forest floor with an LED-lit magnifying lens, hunting for and photographing slime molds and tiny fungi. Given the nearly imperceptible size of her subjects, she purchased better macro lenses, allowing her to photograph her subjects at even higher magnification.
Most recently, she adapted a microscope objective to her camera to produce meticulous portraits of individual fruiting bodies a mere millimeter tall, smaller than the head of a pin.
For the last two years, Alison has been posting her photographs on Instagram, amassing a large and enthusiastic following. Her otherworldly images are captioned with information about her subjects, introducing her followers not only to the huge diversity of these tiny life forms and their life cycle, but also to the technical nuances of photographing them.
Through her social media posts, macro photographers have been drawn to these subjects and continue to learn from Alison. Her posts have inspired people to slow down on their hikes in search for these tiny life forms.
Read “What Slime Knows” here. More of Alison Pollack’s work can be seen on Instagram @Marin_ mushrooms and Facebook @AlisonKPollack.