Clarksburg man trains his lens on insect world

Sunday January 20, 2013


Within the viewfinder of Michael Marlow's Nikon D5000 camera is a world full of creatures, alien to most, which might make people scream in horror.

But the mostly harmless creatures only look as if they came from the pages of a sci-fi comic book or horror movie. In actuality, millions of people walk by them every minute, completely unaware of their existence. It's for that reason that Marlow started photographing insects using a style called "macro photography" the art of taking a picture of something at close range to the camera, and he's sharing his passion with everyone.

"Bugs still kind of freak me out sometimes," Marlow admitted. "But I spend a lot of time taking pictures of them as close as I can get without scaring them off, so I get used to it after a while."

Despite the fangs, compound eyes, the squirming, and lethal looking stingers, Marlow captures something in his art that is seldom found or seen by the naked eye.

Having just finished his most recent exhibition at the North Adams Public Library, the Clarksburg resident is hoping the exposure will drive more people to visit his website,, giving him the opportunity to chase his admiration of all things creepy and crawling full time.

Marlow's passion really started, he said, about six years ago, while he was on a family vacation and saw a large dragonfly whiz past him and land. The colors caught his eye immediately and he knew then he wanted to capture that beauty forever.

"I do this because I find these creatures beautiful, fascinating, enlightening, bizarre and somehow, transcendently representative of the human condition, survival," he said.

When he returned home, he opened his computer and spent hours going through photos of bugs on Flickr and thought to himself, "I can do this."

Thousands of photos later, Marlow's love of insects has only metamorphosed from a small cocoon to a lunar moth, his favorite creature to photograph.

"I hadn't seen any in the wild for at least 10 years, then this summer I was able to shoot seven of them in Clarksburg, I felt pretty lucky," Marlow said.

His love of macro photography, taking an image of something with the lens very close to the subject, typically takes him to nearby state parks to find jumping spiders. Last summer however, he made a special trip to Florida to see the vast difference in insect life. While on a hike he spotted several new species he'd never seen or heard of before, which can be tricky, he said.

"I'm not an entomologist, but by observing the bug's behavior you can learn and predict its movement," Marlow said. "It makes it a lot easier to photograph if you know what it's going to do."

Born and raised in North Adams, he went to Dartmouth College and earned his bachelor of arts in English and creative writing in 2001.

A combination of part-time jobs and online auction sales has allowed him to pursue his photography, although he said he is looking for employment.

An aspiring novelist, Marlow has yet to incorporate his love of bugs into his writing, but the idea has crossed his mind more than once.

"What I like about bugs is that they're not like people," he said. "I see a lot of similarities sure, but it's the fragility of their life and shortness of it that drives them to make such contrasting decisions."

To reach Josh Stilts:,
or (413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @JoshStilts.


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