Little Creatures, But Not That Little…

18 February 2013

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‘Little Creatures, But Not That Little…’
Written by Ilda Teresa Castro

E. O. Wilson is one of the foremost biologists of our time and he draws our attention to the little things that rule the world.

As an entomologist, he makes links between the insects and the endangered fauna and flora of our planet. He points out that, if insects were to become extinct, the environment on Earth would quickly fall into chaos, resulting from the extinction of the unpollenated plants.

Whereas people need insects to survive, insects don’t need people.

If the human race were to disappear, it would be highly unlikely that any species of insects would become extinct, with the exception of three kinds of louse that survive only on the human head and body.

It’s a curious fact that the total number of ants on the planet could be as many as 10 thousand billion, and they weigh almost the same as 6.5 thousand million human beings.

And, E.O. Wilson ponders, does anyone believe that these tiny creatures only exist to occupy space?

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Catherine Chalmers : ‘The Leafcutters’

Catherine Chalmers is a self-confessed admirer of Edward O. Wilson’s studies about ants. ‘The Leafcutters’ is the name of her new project about the leafcutter ants, genera Atta colombica.

The leafcutting ants, such as the Atta, cut and harvest the live plant material that is the basis of their diet. Millions of workers inhabit huge subterranean nest structures with hundreds of interconnected fungus garden chambers. The harvesting process is only possible by means of cooperation and division of labour among the individuals. Leaves are cut by some workers and dropped to the ground for further fragmentation. This material is then transported into the nest by other workers where it is taken to the garden chambers to decompose. Catherine Chalmers’ photographs look at this complex behaviour in an aesthetic away.

Her photographs are divided into four groups: ‘Antworks in Progress’, ‘Antworks’, ‘Offerings’ and ‘War’. The photographs from ‘Offerings’ (some of which we are showing here with this post) are well-lit, close-up shots of ants transporting fragments of plants, photographed against a white background. Captured this way, we can fully admire the body of the ants – their physical prowess! – and observe with detail the interesting and beautiful vegetation they carry.

Chalmers made five trips to Central America between 2007 and 2012 to photograph and film the Atta. The result is a multimedia piece that comprises photographs, videos, drawings and sculptures. Her work premiered last summer at DeNovo Gallery in Idaho and it is currently being shown at Imago Galleries in California.

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All photos © Catherine Chalmers

Catherine Chalmers’ exhibition catalogue, printed by DeNovo Gallery, can be consulted at Fauna & Flora Library: faunaandflora.org/library/

You can see more of Catherine Chalmers’ work on her website: catherinechalmers.com/

Ilda Teresa Castro is a Portuguese researcher in Ecomedia and Animal Studies. She is also the proud owner of five beautiful cats.

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18. February 2013 by Joao Bento
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