The average person doesn’t think much about insects, and when they do, they might not be thinking about anything good.
While some insects like termites, mosquitos, and cockroaches might seem like pests, they all have deep evolutionary roots and amazing biological capabilities that are worth noticing. Revealing the often overlooked world of insects and showcasing their beauty is a full-time job for entomologists like Dr. Alex Wild from the University of Texas at Austin.
Wild spent many years selling his amazing insect microphotography, only to be saddled with the endless task of contacting individuals who did not respect his copyright and used his images without permission, without attribution, or both.
Out of frustration with that process, he began working on a new project with the University of Texas at Austin called Insects Unlocked.
This program would pay photographers up front to create the highly sought-after images and then release the work into the public domain, making it free for anyone to use for any purpose.
"This create first/pay later model can be turned upside-down, though, if there is enough demand. With image consumers paying costs up front, image creators may not need to rely on copyright to stay afloat, Wild explained in an email to A Plus. "Insects Unlocked is a kind of experiment, to see what sort of public support might exist to create images to serve, copyright-free, as a public good. Should it work, we plan on expanding."
The photographer gets paid, the image is freely available online, there aren't any copyrights to squabble about, and it's a win-win.
The images themselves aren’t made with your average point and shoot camera.
Microphotography, particularly of this caliber, requires specialized equipment and highly-trained photographers to perfectly capture the tiny features of these insects. In order to provide the equipment, pay the photographers, and purchase the web support for Insect Unlocked's site, they needed to raise some money.
A crowdfunding campaign has been started with an initial goal of $8,000. At the time of this writing, over 175 donors have contributed over $11,500 with just one day to go. Though they added a stretch goal of $14,000, they are currently trying to hit 200 donors, even if the balance is just through $1 donations. Of course, the more money they receive, the more photographs they will be able to take and release to the public.
Certain donor levels will be able to choose the insects featured first by the program, while top-tier donors will be invited to come and learn how to take the images for themselves.
Even if insects kind of gross you out or if certain ones are capable of sending you into anaphylactic shock, they are very much worth learning about.
"Insects run the world around us, even if we don't realize it. They churn our soil, keeping it healthy and aerated to grow our food. Flowers exist for the sole purpose of attracting insects, and many of our fruit crops depend on them. The unique flavors of most herbs and spices are due to the plants' need to fight off insect herbivores," Wild continued in his statement to A Plus. "Insects make products we use: shellac, honey, wax, cochineal dyes. Insects also intersect with human history, sometimes helping us, sometimes plaguing us, but always important."