Fernbank Museum of Natural History has always included art-oriented photography in its presentations of the natural world, so it’s fitting that the five-story-tall praying mantis in its “Bugs” Imax film should be complemented by oversized butterflies in the more-than-macro photography of Bill Harbin.
Parents taking their offspring to Fernbank’s “Bug Out Festival” this coming Sunday (or to anything else at Fernbank through September 6) can contemplate the astonishingly velvety texture of butterfly and moth wings (plus a grimly beautiful shot of one in the grasp of a spider) in Harbin’s enormously detailed images.
The patterns on butterfly wings have long inspired artists and designers; this is a whole new look at the artistry of natural form. To do it, Harbin inventively stretches the limits of available technology, stabilizing a macro lens without benefit of tripod and otherwise taking hundreds of photographs in hopes of acquiring one good one.
It comes as an unanticipated extra that the butterflies’ colors are so often complements of the coloration of the flowers they’re feeding on. This might have something to do with survival strategies in nature, but in Harbin’s photography it simply gives us a feast of gorgeous form. Visitors seem to be completely delighted by these small bursts of aesthetic moments in the middle of the competing attractions of the giant dinosaur bones in the atrium and the geckos in the main exhibition downstairs.