Microsculpture: insects like you’ve never seen them before!

The collaboration between photographer Levon Biss and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History gave birth to an incredible exhibition of insects portraits.

by Julia Migné

© Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The exhibition, currently displayed at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, is composed of a series of “beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits captures the microscopic form of insects in striking large-format and high-resolution detail.”

Offering a very unique experience, the photographic prints measure up to three metres and can be compared to the tiny insect specimens showcased nearby. The incredible amount of details, colours and textures make it easy to spend few minutes completely absorbed by the images.

Showing the complexity and beauty of the museum’s specimens, each photo is accompanied with information about the insect. Visitors also get the chance to use an interactive screen to zoom in the photos as much as they wish, the incredible details and sharpness being mind-blowing.


In a short film, Levon Biss explains that this whole project started with him taking photos of insect specimens caught by his boy in their garden. Specialised in sport and travelling extensively, he wanted to have a project that would always be there when he would come back from a trip. Having a reduced amount of space available, Levon decided to start shooting something small. The Microsculpture project was born!

Microsculpture from Levon Biss on Vimeo.

Impressed by the details and sharpness of his photographs, Dr James Hogan, Entomology Department Curator at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, thought: “Well, there are some other things that would look even better.”

The lucky photographer then got special access to the museum’s entomology collection and started picking specimens with the appropriate shapes, sizes and colours. Bringing them home, Levon used his professional lighting equipment to shoot each part of the insects’ bodies to make sure that all the details were perfectly lit.

Working his way across the entire body of his models, he ended up having individual photos for each of the 30 sections of the insects. Working with microscope lenses is quite a challenge for photographers as it gives a very shallow depth of field, that’s why so many pictures had to be taken.


The set of images was next processed and assembled to obtain one sharp image. The process is meticulous and one final image represents between two to three weeks of work!

If you want to explore the entomology collection in a new mind-blowing way head to Oxford! The exhibition which was initially scheduled to end on the 31st of October has been extended until the 29 January 2017, so what are you waiting for?

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