They are small but beautiful and vital for the ecosystem. Meet ‘Poochi' Venkat, an ambassador for the insect world

Name a class of creatures that is beautiful, intelligent and crucial for man's existence? The answer — insects! So, if your instinctive reaction on sighting an insect (except the butterfly, possibly) is to stamp it out of existence or frown in revulsion, it is time you met ‘Poochi' Venkat. Venkat's ‘poochi' workshops and amazing macro-photographs of insects have helped many see insects in a new light.

Venkat, a media consultant, uses photography as a tool to help remove fear of insects. “If I put a spider on someone's palm, he is going to tremble. Empathy for insects has to come from within,” says Venkat.

So, he gets people to zoom in on insects through a macro lens. That way, the dynamism, intelligence, complexity of form, and the breathtaking colour of the insect world unfolds.

Then, there are Venkat's school-boyish pranks. Unsuspecting visitors at his workshops will find themselves brushing against spiders and insects scattered around! Relax — they are just authentic-looking rubber models. “ Revulsion fades when they are encouraged to hold these rubber models; they realise that it doesn't feel so bad after all,” Venkat says.

Doing away with fear

Venkat also gives participants the task of locating insects and photographing their activities. “When you actually go looking for insects, rather than running away from them, you lose this fear,” he remarks. Fear and aversion for insects is a conditioned feeling, apparently.

For Venkat, the obsession with insects began when a client wanted him to reproduce pictures of insects. Rather than reproducing pre-existing images, Venkat wanted to take live images, and went on an insect hunt, beginning from the Guindy Park and Theosophical Society premises to territories such as Chengalpattu scrub forests Top Slip, and even to the deep wilderness of the Anamalai range, the Parambikulam sanctuary and the Western Ghat forests.

“But, you don't really have to head out to the wilds to observe insect life. Our houses can throw up some remarkable encounters. Especially at night, when the insect world wakes up,” says Venkat, who has spent many ‘insect-watch' nights in unlit rooms, with a torch strapped to his head and a camera in hand.

The web of life

Insects are tiny in scale, but they are crucial links in the web of life. Wiping out insects is like pulling the rug from under the very ecosystem we humans stand on. So, then, do we offer ourselves as prey for mosquitoes? Of course not… just don't spray or stamp to death every insect you sight. Don't bother insects that don't mean harm. And, try natural methods of control. Chemical control will only go on to produce a more resistant set of mosquitoes, flies, or cockroaches.

So, the next time insects flutter into your room, don't panic! “Open windows and doors. If you want to drive them out, swish a towel around the room. Or, just take your broom and gently sweep them away,” suggests Venkat. Or maybe, bring out your camera.

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