Insects are at once our most familiar fellow animals and the most mysterious. They appear to be indestructible, but globally, insect species are quietly disappearing in the sixth mass extinction that life on Earth is undergoing today. This joint project of photographer Levon Biss and the American Museum of Natural History contains indelible images of 40 extinct or endangered species in the museum’s collection, selected from its vast holdings by a team of scientists. They range from imperiled old friends like the monarch butterfly and the nine-spotted ladybug to the remote Lord Howe Island stick insect of Australia, thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century until a tiny population was discovered and bred in captivity in 2001. All were sent to Biss’s studio, where he created commanding portraits that can be enlarged 300-times lifesize to reveal vivid full-page details of form and color—a world invisible to our naked eyes. The result is a book that insists on the momentous significance of these small, mostly unknown creatures.
Extraordinary images by master macro photographer Levon Biss capture a vanishing world of insects from the collections of the American Museum of Natural History in New York