We’ve seen insects used as art protagonists before. Mike Libby turns them into steampunk hybrids, and Ubyka creates armed insect cyborgs, but I haven’t seen anything like what Andrey Pavlov does with ants. This is the touching story of a man who found comfort in studying and immortalizing hardworking ants performing their daily routines.
Andrey Pavlov wasn’t particularly interested in macro photography until seven years ago, when a spinal injury caused him to remain immobilized. That’s when he fell under the charm of these amazing earthlings called ants. He started reading books about them and their behavior, and became fascinated with the way the ant community cares for its weaker members – the children, the old, and the disabled. That’s when he realized they were creatures that commanded respect. This civilization that for the last 150 million years has mastered so many environmentally sustainable ways of surviving and evolving at the same time, really impressed him. So he made it a hobby to observe and take photos of these incredible insects.
Andrey Pavlov’s photography has been called many things, but whether it was “fake” or “photoshoped” they all pretty much suggested the same thing. And you can’t really blame people for thinking that while looking at his stunning photos. Let’s face it, it’s hard to believe anyone can train ants to pose for the camera like his subjects seem to do. But the truth is, the Russian photographer has indeed found a way to do just that. Although staged, believe it or not, Pavlov’s photography uses live characters! And here’s how he does it: as I mentioned above, he spent a lot of time studying ants, and he learned that they all follow a very specific path when they’re working. So all he has to do is find them, put the props right on their trail, set up some flash backgrouns and light reflectors, and just stand on the sidelines photographing the ants.
But how does someone train ants to do stuff like what we see in Andrey’s photos? He says it’s a proven fact that ants are very fast learners. It’s enough to grab the attention of just one member of the community, convince it to perform a trick, and the others will soon follow suit. He uses all kinds of things to attract the insects, from shiny coins, to his own fingers. It took him about three years to understand and get in touch with the tiny creatures, but now he knows just how to deal with them. He builds all the props himself in the several months he dedicates to his hobby. That’s right, every year, from May to October, Andrey Pavlov moves to a cottage in the countryside, where he likes to photograph red forest ants.
The photo series created by this talented Russian photographer is called “Ant Stories”. And what beautiful stories they are… Have you ever seen something this extraordinary?
All photos copyright of Andrey Pavlov