Conservation is critical to the very survival of our planet, but protecting nature offers a benefit we often ignore: preserving its artistry. As a biologist, I have seen magnificent structures, patterns, and colors in the subjects of my study. As a photographer, it is my hope to capture this natural beauty for all to see.
Perhaps the most visually astonishing creatures I have encountered are amphibians, such as frogs, toads, and salamanders. Their skin features distinctive patterns that allow scientists such as myself to identify them as particular species. In the past, I have used photography to record them for documentary purposes. Yet the colors, shapes, and textures of these patterns are extraordinary in their own right. So in the series of photographs I call Vanishing Lives, I have isolated sections of amphibian skin and greatly enlarged them.
To do this, I use high-magnification macro photography. In this context, I made close ups until 5X magnification, something that is impossible to obtain to the human eye. My approach shows viewers details that they would miss even if they were to encounter such a specimen, which is unlikely to begin with. For me, the resulting images have all the beauty and impact of abstract painting. One difference, though, is that when viewers look closely they will see that the colors and shapes have textures that are real in appearance—three-dimensional and often glistening with moisture. This is an important cue that nature is the artist.