work on display: The Odonata (dragonflies) of Tarrant County

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From the project climbing anxious spires, a collection of scenes and environmental portraits about awe, confusion, wonder and isolation.

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work on display: The Odonata (dragonflies) of Tarrant County

So my friends at Root’s Coffeehouse recently asked me if I would be interested in doing another display at their shop. I had some different ideas that originally focused on a lot of people and interactions I’ve had while traveling, working and photographing different parts of the world but that was conceptually half of my last display and I didn’t want to repeat any work. Ultimately I decided I wanted to go in an entirely different direction and do something less common thematically (and possibly something even more foreign to people here in the US than the lives of folks outside the boundaries of our declining empire), despite their ubiquitous presence: insects.

More specifically, I am talking about dragonflies! I just wrote a short post on how I came to be so intrigued by these creatures and how my interest in them has played out in my life in various ways.

The new display is meant to be educational as well as aesthetic and features the Odonata (dragonflies) of Tarrant County, the area that has been my home off-and-on for about a decade and the area with which I have the most experience concerning dragonflies. It features 14 species with male and female represented, either in separate photographs or together while mating or laying eggs. There are placards nearby each species with their binomial names, their estimated flight seasons in Tarrant County and three points of interest. The species were chosen based on a criteria such as unique but relative family and genera representation, sexual dimorphism and relative ease of spotting. In addition to the photos showing then variety of “looks” dragonflies have, there are images depicting ephemeral life stages, morphology, behaviors (copulation, contact/non-contact mate-guarding) and interaction with other organisms (mainly, predation). There is accompanying text with a primer on dragonflies and their life history as well as relevant terminology and some common questions.

Originally I had intended to include specimens but this project kept growing and logistically that presented a challenge as this isn’t really a controlled-environment and I ended up using more space than I thought I would. I may bring some specimens to the reception (I will post the date when it is finalized) for hand’s-on education/demonstration.

The Odonata of Tarrant County on display at Roots

The Odonata of Tarrant County on display at Roots

This project is a culmination of years of photographic work and personal research and though I didn’t do all of the included photography with this particular display in mind it is rewarding to see it come together into a larger piece. I want to thank Shawna for helping me hang the display (and reminding me to take breaks every so often) and my brother, Andrew, who was likely with me on many of these shoots. Both Shawna and Andrew have been great models and helped me learn a lot thru “teaching” them while we used to hang out and spend time in nature together. Relaying information to them in such an informal manner definitely shaped the way I approached the educational aspect of this project. Also thanks to Roots for asking me back for another display.

Lastly, I would like to thank Scott King, who recently sent me two of his books. One was on observing dragonflies with his daughter (Rice County Odonata Journal: Volume Two) and the other is a collection of poems on dragonflies (Dragonfly Haiku, with other authors as well). I want to thank Scott because at first when I thought of this display I wondered who would care or want to see so many images of dragonflies but after going through some of Scott’s work I realized I didn’t really care because that is what I wanted to do. My interest in dragonflies has always been entirely personal, solitary and intrinsic so it felt strange to want to share that but after seeing his passion manifest in print it made happy in way that someone brought something to fruition in what is doubtlessly a very niche market.

I hope in some way this display can help or encourage people to find a bit of appreciation and enjoyment in the natural world as I have found through observing dragonflies.

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