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‘Mimesis': imagining the evolution of leaf mimicry in insects during the Anthropocene

“Mimesis’ first began when I became fascinated by cryptic camouflage in insects and the phenotypic plasticity of many invertebrate species. In addition, I have been concerned about the impact of humans upon non-human animals: whether it be through carbon emissions, air and plastic pollution, destruction of habitat, or the use of pesticides and herbicides.

I became inspired by the work of science artist, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, who made field studies of mutations in invertebrates occurring in the Chernobyl nuclear fall out zone. With all this in mind I decided to make photographic works about mutation and evolution, and began some initial explorations in 2013.

Various studies of the Peppered Moth were also strong influence on the work. The Peppered Moth has different forms: one is light in colour and the other dark. In polluted cities the dark variant became dominant as it was better camouflaged on trees that were stripped of lichen and darkened with soot. Once air pollution was reduced the pale variant became dominant

Then in 2018, my home county of Northumberland, UK,  had one of the hottest and driest summers on record. Local flora was severely impacted by this. Trees suffered, in particular Sycamore and Cherry, with leaves withering on branches and eventually falling by July. This motivated me to revisit the "Mimesis' project, imagining how insects might respond to changes in the plants that formed their habitats and how they may camouflage themselves in this changing environment. I began to make series of “leaf insects” from photographs of fallen and decaying leaves from which new species may mutate and evolve.

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