Last week took me to State College, Pa., to photograph researcher Dr. Joe Louis at Penn State University.  The University of North Texas, where Dr. Louis earned a masters degree in entomology, needed a portrait for a profile story in an upcoming issue of its alumni magazine.

Dr. Louis studies interactions between insects and plants. His research focuses on making plants resistant to insects by changing the DNA of the plants. I wanted to capture Dr. Louis in his natural habitat of the greenhouse and laboratory, but I also wanted to try something a bit more conceptual that showed his work without having him hold a test tube and light the wall behind him with a blue gel.

I took a variety of portraits in different locations in the greenhouse and lab, and then asked Dr. Louis if he would mind dressing up as an insect. By this point, I had figured out that he had a sense of humor and probably would not mind wearing the costume.  (An aside… I rented the bug suit from the theatre department costume shop at Millersville University in Lancaster. It’s a super local resource that I discovered through a friend.)

I’m trying to take my portrait work in a more conceptual direction after attending the Chris Buck portrait workshop in Santa Fe earlier this month. The workshop really challenged me to create storytelling portraits. It also made me realize the challenge of creating a conceptual image. I feel that conceptual images need a certain subtlety. You have to work a lot harder than if you’re merely making an environmental portrait.

Thanks. Here’s some images…