The Lennart Nilsson Award

The Lennart Nilsson Award Foundation was established in 1998 in recognition of the world-renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson and his extraordinary body of work. It's main aim is to promote education, training and research within the medical, biological and engineering sciences through the use of images.

The awarded amount is SEK 120 000 and the prize ceremony will take place in connection with the installation ceremony for new professors at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

Eupolymnia nebulosa (svenskt namn saknas) är en rörbyggande havsborstmask och hör till gruppen spagettimaskar med syfte på tentakelkronan de har i framänden. Djuret på bilden är cirka 3 centimeter långt och har tagits ut ur sitt rör.
Eupolymnia nebulosa (Swedish name lacking) is a tube-building bristle worm that belongs a group called spaghetti worms, referring to the tentacular crown at the anterior end.,The animal on the photo is about 3 cm long and has been removed from the tube. Photo: Fredrik Pleijel

Prize winner 2023 - Fredrik Pleijel

Fredrik Pleijel, researcher in marine biology at the Department of Marine Sciences, Gothenburg University, is awarded the 2023 Lennart Nilsson Award for his ability to depict and make visible the beauty of marine life.


Fredrik Pleijel is awarded the 2023 Lennart Nilsson Award for his scientific photography of fragile marine animals. In the spirit of Lennart Nilsson, he makes the invisible life of marine invertebrates not only visible but also aesthetic and fascinating. His images are an important contribution to the taxonomy of organisms in marine sediments. Through his images he reaches well outside the academic world in portraying the beauty of marine life and stimulating our fascination for biodiversity.

Press release

Fredrik Pleijel
Fredrik Pleijel. Photo: John Wingborg, University of Gothenburg
Noctiluca scintillans (svenskt namn mareld) är en encelllig alg som hör till gruppen dinoflagellater. När algen blommar, vanligen under sensommaren, färgas ytvattnet med en karaktäristisk brun-rosa färg och efter solnedgången kan man se havet lysa.
Noctiluca scintillans (sea sparkle) belongs to a group of unicellular algae called dinoflagellates. When it blooms, usually in late summer, the surface water turns into a characteristic brown-pink color, and after the sunset you can see the sea sparkling. The light pulses are produced with an enzyme reaction that is triggered when the algae are disturbed. The alga on the hoot is about mm in diameter. Photo: Fredrik Pleijel
Photographer Lennart Nilsson Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

About Lennart Nilsson

Born in Strängnäs, Sweden, on August 24, 1922, Lennart Nilsson began his career as a freelance photojournalist. His work spans more than seven decades, beginning in the early 1940s when modern photojournalism made its breakthrough in Sweden.

His early photographic essays, including A Midwife in Lapland (1945), Polar Bear Hunting in Spitzbergen (1947), Congo (1948) and Sweden in Profile (1954) gained international attention through publication in leading photojournalism magazines such as Life, Picture Post and Illustrated.

In the 1950s, Nilsson began experimenting with new photographic techniques including macro- and microphotography, which led to the books, Ants (Myror) and Life in the Sea (Liv i hav).

In the 1960s, the use of specially designed, ultra-slim endoscopes made it possible for Nilsson to capture on film the inner workings of blood vessels and various cavities of the human body. The book A Child is Born (Ett barn blir till) first published in 1965 is undoubtedly Nilsson’s most famous work.

In the 1970s, Nilsson began to use the scanning electron microscope to capture images of the inner workings of the human body. This shift in the focus of his work gave Nilsson the opportunity to work on the premises of Karolinska Institute.

What remains remarkable is the combination of his unending patience to fully explore his subjects, combined with a journalist’s eye, artist’s sense of form and colour, and technician’s inventive skills to maximize available light and capture spectacular images.

In 1976 Lennart Nilsson was awarded an honorary doctorate at Karolinska Institutet. In 2009 he was given the title Professor’s name by the Swedish Government and in 2012 he was awarded the Karolinska Institutet Jubilee Medal (Gold class) for his long-standing and groundbreaking contributions to the development and innovative advancement of medical photography.

Lennart Nilsson passed away in January 2017.

Anne Thyrfing