It’s clear from the child-like squeals that come out of grown adults when they see a spider: most people don’t like creepy crawlies. But photographer Levon Biss is not squeamish at all around six-legged friends. Perhaps that’s because the ones he encounters are already dead. Regardless of how you feel about insects, Biss’ new photo series Microsculpture will have you seeing insects in a way you’ve never seen them before: up close and in vivid detail.
The series was inspired by Biss’ son, who would catch insects in the family garden and gift them to his father. Using a microscopic lense, Biss began to experiment with macrophotography. He brought these photos to Dr. James Hogan, the Entomology Department Curator at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for review. Hogan was blown away by the quality of the images and offered Biss access to the museum’s insect collection, which is the second largest of its kind in Britain.
“The specimens had to be interesting shapes or colors— not too big, not too small, clean or cleanable. Even the tiniest amounts of dirt picked up in the photographs. We probably rejected about 99% of the museum’s collection,” Dr. Hogan says in a video about the project.
What makes the collection so stunning is the macrophotography process. Biss incorporated his knowledge of lighting from commercial sports photography into this project. He would light specific sections of the insects individually, photographing them one at at time. He would then combine the best lit shots of the individual parts of the insect into one perfectly lit final image, made of somewhere in between 8,000 and 10,000 images. The whole process would take 2-3 weeks per each insect.
The resulting images show insects in a new light, literally. The prints of the images stand as tall as a man. The photos can also be experienced through his interactive website, where you can zoom to see individual filaments on every tiny limb.