Master photographer Jo Whaley creates art from a black and blue butterfly
What makes this photograph of a black and blue butterfly so special? What makes the butterfly stand out? What draws us into the shot? Jo Whaley explains the dynamics of this intriguing photograph.
The Perfect Combination
Jo Whaley: The photograph of the black and blue butterfly is called Papillion Ulysses. It’s just a piece of metal I pulled out of the soil here in New Mexico. It’s beautifully decayed and I painted a little backdrop to go behind the metal to reflect the beautiful blue that’s in the insect itself.
I marveled at how the deteriorated decay of the metal mirrors the pattern on the insect. That’s the kind of thing that I would find often is that these backgrounds would marry with the insects even though they’re man made and I wanted the insects to look like they belonged in these environments, even though they have this artificial origins.
I should also say that these insect pieces are very difficult to light because they’re so small. I use little mirrors to reflect light at the spotlight.
Audri Lanford: Here the backdrops are very close to the insects then.
Jo Whaley: Yes they are because I want to pull the backdrop and the insect in, both in focus so the insects are only about an inch above the backdrop. What I often use is lighting skimming across the surface from the side and then bouncing in so that I don’t have cast shadows from the insect onto the backdrop.
I think I sent you a picture of my lighting on one of the sets so your listeners can actually view what the set looks like in terms of scale.
Scale, lighting and backdrop can make the difference between failure and success when it comes to still life fine art photography. In this photograph of the black and blue butterfly, the right backdrop and the perfect lighting made all the difference in the world for Jo Whaley.