Is the black and white beetle in this photograph the predator or the prey?
This photograph of a black and white beetle is the stuff some nightmares are made of. How did Jo Whaley create such a dramatic and powerful image? She explained this shot during her 7 Photography Questions interview.
It’s a Matter of Perspective
Jo Whaley: This photograph is of a black and white beetle. It’s on a very ethereal background. That background is actually a piece of a glass bottle that was thrown — this is really funny — into the San Francisco Bay by a gold rushminer going up into the gold rush in the late 1840s. A friend of mine dug these bottles out of the bay in the 1970s and has collected them.
The beetle is going towards a beautiful Venus-like sphere that is actually a marble from that same time period. They’re beautifully iridescent, just like the beetle is iridescent. That is because the glass had impurities and it oxidized in the earth into this beautiful painterly background. I guess the reason I’m using it is because that it looks like the beetle belongs there.
Audri Lanford: It really does. So the marble is not part of the glass, it’s separate from it?
Jo Whaley: Yes, it’s just a child’s marble.
Audri Lanford: Oh, okay. I thought it was somehow in the glass so this is very tiny.
Jo Whaley: Yes. Again, the sets for the insects are only about 5×6 inches as the most. You have to realize that the prints that I make are one of two sizes. The purpose of that is I want the viewer to confront these images so that they’re confronting the insect on a one-to-one scale.
The insect is as large as a human head. It calls into question man’s perceived dominance over nature. Also, the insects loose their decorative quality at that scale. They can be somewhat menacing.
Man seems to think it rules the world, but Jo Whaley’s photographs may make us reconsider that notion. Her picture of a black and white beetle is enough to make us think that maybe, just maybe, we are not the most menacing beings to walk the planet.