"Meet the Beetles" is an exploration of morphology and my attempt to reveal the beauty of anatomical structure in the insect world through photography as other artists have sought to reveal the beauty of anatomical structure in the plant world. Since insect species range from small and shiny (beetles) to large and spiny (walking sticks), I have created with my camera a forced exactitude of viewing point in order to magnify the taxonomic differences within likeness of multiple specimens of insect.
The insects I photograph are not found objects but highly manipulated ones. I order them dried and packaged from scientific supply companies, then steam and pin them in such a way that the full range of their shapes and textures is visible. This is contrary to scientific "spreading" in which only the parts of the insect necessary for identification of species are exposed. To this end, I arrange their wings, legs, and antennae not as they were in life, but as one might arrange exotic flowers, displaying detail and form through conspicuously symmetrical and stylized poses. The steel- headed pin evident in each image further serves to signal the viewer that these photographs represent an intentional aesthetic rather than a straightforward natural record.
I shoot with a 4x5 view camera and sepia-tone the prints in the style of the 19th century when scientists were debating Darwin's theory of evolution, museums throughout Europe were amassing their natural history collections, and illustrators were working to capture the likenesses of flowers in botanical drawings.