In my previous post I mentioned that I have the privilege to be doing my academic internship at the OSU Triplehorn Insect Collection. The collection is a major resource for the scientific community, providing access to specimens and specimen data, and now the collection and the people here are also helping me advance my art. This experience has been nothing short of amazing. The best part of the internship is getting a lot of hands‐on experience that not only taught me about insects but also helped me to improve my personal creative process.
My journey started about a year ago when I decided to explore my interest in merging art and science, but I had no clear idea how. I started experimenting with an old light microscope that had been donated to CCAD 5 years ago.
I started out by creating slides of myself in order to explore a new way of creating a self‐portrait. Within the early stages of experimentation I chose to examine my own makeup foundation and how it interacted with objects from my everyday life, such as photographing the makeup left on a tissue, the interaction of my saliva and lip‐gloss on the leaf of my favorite plant, or even gathering pus from a pimple and combining an eyelash that I had plucked out. What I discovered was a world filled with vibrant colors and textures. From that point forward I have been inspired to keep exploring the human form through this new lens, one where you could view the smaller components that make up the person we are, something that I call our “smaller selves.” I’ve had countless ideas of images I wanted to create but there were a few bumps along the way.
The equipment I was using wasn’t intended to produce high quality images that could be printed out on large sheets of paper. Taking photos with the old microscope took a long time and editing them together to produce a final image took even longer.
At high magnification a light microscope can only focus on one small section of a three dimensional specimen at a time. To gather all the information needed to create a whole image that was in focus could take anywhere from 10 to 200 photos depending on depth and area. I then had to bring all the images into Photoshop and stack all sections together by hand in order to create a final image that was in focus. It took massive amounts of time to make sure everything was done right.
Getting hands‐on experience at the OSU Triplehorn Collection has proven to be very helpful. After training (I had to learn how to use the equipment AND how to handle the fragile museum specimens), I was allowed access to a microscopic imaging system complete with a canon 5D, LED lighting, motorized focus control, stand/stage. I was also introduced to image stacking software. What a revelation! The work that previously would take me days to complete in order to produce a single in‐focus high resolution image could now be done in a matter of minutes.
The automated motorized focus control is genius! It allows me set a high and a low point between which photos of the specimen will be taken, and then to set the interval between each photo as well. Once that’s done, with a push of a button the software proceeds to take multiple photos moving from the higher to the lower set points in the predefined installments. I can then import the entire set of photos into the image stacking software which combines them to create one in‐focus image. I can now create several images in a day versus one image every 2‐4 days.
Another reason I am interested in the collection is the insects. Their diversity is astounding! The collection is made up of millions of insect specimens, varying greatly in size, color, texture, and form. I never know what I am going to find or learn next. The crazy part is that this collection (and any collection really!), is nowhere near close to owning every single species of insects.
Although I admire every new insect that I see, I find myself drawn to the
smaller specimens. At first these specimens appear kind of boring since the vast majority of them are small and brown. But once you place them under the microscope then you can really see what makes them unique: microscopic hairs, color patterns, eye structure, etc.. The level of detail that can be seen under the microscope can be overwhelming to someone with an untrained eye, like me, but these microscopic details help entomologists determine which species of insect they have at hand. Sometimes it all comes down to an extra hair or bump on the head.
Through these recent experiences here at the collection and at CCAD I have been inspired to find a new way of merging photography and science. For my internship project I decided to create a poster‐sized pattern that gives the observer the opportunity to explore insect diversity in a creative way. I will also include information on the names of the insects, both scientific and common, origin, and the date they were collected for people who wish to learn more. I already have a couple of sample mock‐ups that illustrate the concept and show where I am heading.
I have a lot more I want to say and show within my next blog post! But for now you can always follow me on Instagram (@eviemoran) to keep up with progress pictures and all of the cool insects I have chosen to use in my project.
Some insects have an astonishing iridescent or gold shimmer, their body seems to mimic jewels. Observing those particular types of specimens in person is an experience that can’t be explained, but I’ll try and photograph it.
I would also like to acknowledge Jordan Reynolds, who works here at the collection and has instructed me on how to handle the equipment within the lab and provided a sounding board for creative ideas. But of course none of this would have been possible without my supervisor, Dr. Luciana Musetti, who accepted me as one of the labs own members and has opened my eyes even wider to the world of insects through her never ending passion to learn and see more.
About the author: Evie Moran is a Columbus-based fine art photographer skilled in microscopic imaging, archival preservation/imaging, and shoot coordination, seeking projects where she can add value within academia. She started her internship at the Triplehorn Insect Collection in January 2018. Contact Evie here at the blog or at evievmoran.com.