I’ve never met Andy Murray in-person, but I feel like we’re kindred spirits when it comes to how we feel about the natural sciences.
Andy is the “photographer, writer, entomologist and traveller” behind a superb site called A Chaos of Delight. It’s superb not just because of it’s drop-dead-gorgeous images of mesofauna (which I’ll get to in a moment), but also because of Andy’s obvious enthusiasm for the subject matter and his perspective on the philosophy of scientific inquiry. In his own words,
“All forms of science are powered by a sense of wonder. Without it, there would be no passion or drive to discover anything new. Dry, jaded cynicism has never found a new plant or planet. Find someone who studies slime moulds or sub molecular particles and ask them why they do what they do. You’ll see them getting as excited as a child in a tree house while they tell you. I have biologist friends who, between them, study moss, beetles, slime moulds, millipedes, and Collembola, like me. Everyone lights up when conversation is brought around to their pet passion/obsession. It’s both endearing and delightful.”
I can’t agree more. While earning my Bachelor of Science in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, I remember sitting in undergraduate courses encountering my fair share of “dry, jaded cynicism” that dampened the underlying enthusiasm for the natural sciences that led me on the path to that field of study in the first place. It’s refreshing to see a more reverent opinion of scientific inquiry (i.e. that it all stems from a sense of wonder) expressed so emphatically.
Philosophical similarities aside, I also relate in Andy’s affinity for soil mesofauna; the oft overlooked invertebrate denizens of the dirt which range in size between 0.1mm and 2mm. I remember, as a child, spending who knows how long laying prone in my backyard with a magnifying glass staring at all the tiny organisms going about their lives in garden soil, under logs, and in piles of leaves. While some boys my age were busy using magnifying glasses to bring Armageddon to anthills, I was using mine to stare, often awestruck, and the variety of tiny organisms under my lens. It was a powerful early lesson in biodiversity and a reminder that small scale didn’t mean a lack of sophistication.
I’m a ‘visual person’. Along with science, design fields have become topics of interest due, in large part, to my friends/partners and when the natural sciences intersect with masterful visuals, it’s safe to say that my attention is ensnared. I’ve absolutely fallen prey to Andy’s strikingly well-composed mesofauna macro photography. They are archetypes of well-composed and technically masterful macro media and they are hands down the best images of mesofauna I’ve ever seen. They go beyond simple documentary photography. There are subtle narratives and themes that can only be captured by a photographer with a deep regard for the subject. Andy’s passion and the pride he takes in his work is palpable.
Though he has a clearly-stated penchant for mesofauna of the Collembola variety, Andy is building a fine catalogue of Protura, Diplura, Acari, Pauropoda, Symphyla, Forcipomyiinae, and other tiny soil creatures.
You can check out more of Andy’s work below, but I encourage you to spend some time on his site. It’s awesome in the literal sense of the word. And Andy, if you’re reading this and ever need someone to hold your lighting rig or something while you’re down there in the dirt, just let me know.