Welcome to the companion website for “The Art of Survival” at MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics. Here you can browse through all of the gallery’s twenty-four images, as well as find a series of accompanying natural history essays that explore topics ranging from photography methods to camouflage, mimicry, and parasitism.
The Art of Survival is a gallery of native New England insects. The remarkable caterpillars, pupas, and moths on display at MIT, and within these pages, were all found within the boundaries of Eastern Massachusetts. Over the last four summers I have hunted down caterpillars in local parks and green spaces, searched every leaf along roadsides and in empty lots, transformed my apartment into a full time rearing zoo and photography studio, and devoted myself to teaching the broader public about these fantastic creatures. I hope that my work will convince viewers about the incredible value of our own local natural heritage.
Each caterpillar and each photograph has a story to tell. Some stories are personal, an image bringing to mind a place, a time, a shared experience. The shorter essays that accompany each photograph in the gallery aim to recreate these moments. Other stories are more strictly biological. As immature organisms, caterpillars are primarily concerned with surviving to reach adulthood. Uncompromised by adult pressures of territory and reproduction, caterpillar evolution has produced some of the most unexpected, ingenious, and strikingly beautiful defensive adaptations in the biological world. A nearly constant theme throughout my work, caterpillars are masters in the art of survival.
In ages of exploration, drawing and painting were important tools used to document new discoveries. Old illustrations regularly depict an organism and its food source or habitat alone on a page, isolated from background distractions. However, an artist’s desire to visually record a subjects behavior and life history often infused these images with life and motion, and many artistic and powerful compositions resulted. From John James Audubon’s Birds of America to Maria Sibylla Merian’s The Insects of Surinam, classical natural history works are my primary inspiration as I attempt to capture complementary aspects of science, drama, and beauty in every photograph.
Custom photographs from Samuel Jaffe's "The Art of Survival" are available for purchase.
Contact Sam at 617-733-7312 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on pricing and availablity, or to set up a private portfolio viewing.