It was during my 2002 trip to New York from my native Ontario, Canada, that the origins and inspiration of this project took root.
I came upon a store in SoHo called Evolution, where I discovered an amazing world of insect samples that were being used for display and for collecting among curious amateur insect lovers and budding entomologists.
I never knew insects from around the globe could be purchased. I bought a butterfly and two beetles, not knowing what I would do with them. My fascination for these creatures arose purely out of an appreciation for their color, texture, and size. Some of these insects, particularly the beetles, are quite large.
In preparation for the 2003 Olympus Visionaries exhibition, which traveled across the United States, I shot an image of a beetle: Chrysochroa buqueti rugicollis (right, above).
This image consisted of two photographs: the beetle on the leaf and the background plant. The lighting was simple: one ring flash on the beetle and a natural backlight for the background leaf.
At the time, I wasn't considering taking this project any further. The beetle image was just an idea I wanted to explore. However, after some initial publicity of this image, it became apparent that people were responding positively to the photograph.
This intrigued me because most people find insects rather repulsive. Yet, there was something about this photo that resonated with the viewer. I shot this image with my Olympus E--1 using a 50mm Macro lens.
I began to consider the idea of extending this project. When I started researching the acquisition of the insects, I discovered a phenomenal world of beauty and color. So while I initially considered shooting "nice" insects like butterflies, moths, and dragonflies, I have found the beetles just as intriguing, if not more.
The next hurdle was buying the insects unmounted and unframed. This was tough, since I could not import them from other countries. Thanks to the Web, I found a supplier in London, Ontario, Ken Thorne, who operates Thorne's Insect Shoppe. London is two hours from Toronto. Since that time, I have made two trips to London to buy bugs.
Recently, I bought another batch of insects and have been developing ideas and backgrounds for the shots. Typically, the background plants are not indigenous to the insects’ natural habitat. This is a conscious decision, to illustrate the idea of biodiversity and how we are "all connected."
Also, the insects are matched visually with a plant that accommodates their size. For example, the Mecynorrhina oberthuri f. decorate approximately five inches long, was shot on magnolia leaves.
The purpose of this project is two--fold: (1) environmentally speaking, I would like to build people's awareness of the creatures and how we are constantly encroaching on the habitat of our animal, insect, mammal neighbors, which are important to the planet's biodiversity; (2) as a commercial/stock photographer and college professor, I constantly question the relevance of commercial photography in my life.
My goal is to have 20 finished images prior to the marketing of this body of work. I have also approached the Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian scientific and environmental agency, to assist me in promoting the project.
Since we all need to make a living, I am also looking at this project as another income source and one that I can be proud of. I am planning on selling the images as prints and will begin marketing to the scientific and entomological communities.