Faculty Focus

The beauty of bugs

Daniel Kariko, assistant professor of fine art photography, School of Art and Design

Daniel Kariko uses some unlikely equipment to capture his subjects: a microscope.

His subjects aren’t typical either. For the past few years, Kariko has photographed common insects in larger-than-life detail. Ants. Beetles. Flies. Crickets. The images are brightly colored and a little creepy. But also beautiful.

Kariko started the ongoing project, called “Suburban Symbiosis,” after attending an open house for the university’s biology department. He was shown how the microscopes worked in the lab and thought about how he could use them for his art.

Much of Kariko’s work is in environmental landscapes and portraiture. When he started noticing little insects around his house, in the yard and on the walkways to and from work, an idea was born.

“I decided to experiment with the notion of environment by doing portraits of these almost invisible creatures around us,” he said. To most, insects are something to be ignored or even squished. In fact, insects represent the largest percentage of the world’s known species.

“My project is meant to bring awareness to what’s around us,” Kariko said.

The “portraits” are composites of a number of exposures with a scanning electron microscope, which gives the hyper detail, and a stereoscopic microscope, which provides color. Kariko carefully arranges each bug and adjusts the lighting to achieve a portrait-like effect inspired by the 17th-century Dutch masters. One photo can take 15-20 hours, he said.

Originally from Serbia, Kariko first began a career in mechanical engineering, but he transitioned to fine art after moving to the United States in 1994. He’s worked at ECU since 2011. Technical research still fascinates him, as does the notion of art and science working together to create new forms of knowledge.

“Fine arts and photography specifically is a really great visual communicator of real-world ideas,” he said. “In collaboration with artists and scientists, wonderful things can happen.”

See a gallery of Kariko’s work at danielkariko.com/suburbansymbiosis.

Faculty News

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