Twenty photographs from a body of work entitled “Urban Entomology”

Insects in general, and butterflies and moths in particular, are beautiful wonders of nature whose very existence is threatened by humans.

Especially in cities such as San Francisco and suburbia such as Silicon Valley in California, USA, we rarely see these wonderful creatures in nature any longer as we have “paved paradise” with urban sprawl that has virtually eliminated their habitats.

Even in what remains of surrounding agricultural areas and open spaces such as golf courses and parks, we use pesticides to kill what are perceived to be noxious insects, but these toxins kill beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies as well.

As butterflies are so sensitive to toxins, they are a good indicator of the state of our environment. Perhaps we should take heed that it is not only the butterflies that we are poisoning by interfering with Mother Nature.

The only butterflies and beautiful insects we see now seem to be mounted specimens in museums. The images presented here are from my body of work entitled “Urban Entomology.” I have photographed scientific specimen butterflies, moths and other insects against a background of urban debris and other evidence of man’s presence to emphasize the strange juxtaposition of beauty and destruction and the fact that sometimes, it’s difficult to tell them apart.

I used scientific knowledge that the eye focuses on the foreground while the background appears to be less focused to make the butterflies, moths and insects in my photographs appear to be real insects sitting on top of my photographs of urban debris. To do this, I pinned real specimen butterflies, moths and insects to my background photographs and re-photographed using the latest highly specialized equipment and computers at Trillium Press, a fine art press in Brisbane, California. This enabled me to photograph the butterflies, moths and insects in extraordinarily sharp focus where every hair and detail is distinctly seen on top of slightly less focused background images thereby making the butterflies, moths and insects appear to be real 3-dimensional specimens. The resulting large-scale (28” x 28”) exhibition pigment prints on Somerset watercolor paper are framed in museum-style shadowbox frames (33” x 33”) to archival museum standards not only to make them appear to have real 3-dimensional specimens in them, but also to further emphasize the point that, more and more, we’ll only see these wonderful miracles of nature in museums.

Brisbane, where Trillium Press is located, is close to San Bruno Mountain, one of the last remaining butterfly habitats in the San Francisco Bay Area and the subject of much animosity between developers and environmentalists. However, the problem is not an isolated one. The universal dilemma is that these beautiful wonders of nature are threatened almost everywhere technology is improving life for man around the world. My work seeks to remind people of this delicate balance between preservation and progress.

D. Cichon