Small, big beings

Tiny WondersV.C. Arun believes appreciating the intricate beauty of small beings is the first step towards conserving themPHOTOS: S. RAMESH KURUP  

An ant pulls at the stretched leg of a stunned frog, two butterflies sit perfectly synchronised wing-to-wing and nibble at the green at either end, a housefly bares its stunning anatomy. V.C. Arun magnifies the small world of small beings till they dazzle us with their intricate manufacturing beauty. Arun, graphic designer, illustrator and photographer, doesn’t stop at the mere beauty of small things though. His exhibition ‘Politics of the Small’ pauses on little beings long enough to document the drama of their daily lives. It lingers and subtly asks, ‘What happens when the small becomes big?’

Over 40 frames on show narrate stories of love and passion – there is even a ‘couple dance’ of ants; of quiet labour – two ants lugging a cube of sugar; of purpose – an ant walking away with a much larger feather; of numbing camouflage – the brown butterfly that is hard to set apart from its brown surroundings; and of laziness – a colourful worm basking in the sun. There are also the myriad battles of the animal world – a new-born spider gnawing away on a grown-up ant, the tug-of-war between the ant and the frog and a bee keen to suck honey from a yellow flower deceived and clutched by a yellow spider.

The photographs taken with an Olympus with extension tubes attached are Arun’s labour of over six years. The photographer says looking at the small is gaining a different perspective of the world. He strives to make the small larger-than-life and initiate a different dynamics. “It is very easy to overlook the small,” says Arun. It was a random walk with a macro lens camera that brought to his attention to the meticulously crafted small beings.

Arun’s ‘Politics of the Small’ is about being rooted unlike regular photography assignments that are about travelling beyond. “I clicked these small creatures from in and around my house, from where I stood. I believe it is important to first see the beauty around yourself first. Unless you see that, there is no point travelling,” says the photographer from Wayanad. He captures fluorescent insects with pixel art eyes and those with crafted, piercing antennae. “Noticing the beauty of things is the first step towards their conservation,” says Arun.

Quite a few of his frames are dedicated to ants – beings which even children take pleasure in squishing between their fingers. “We mostly prefer to see ants as a nuisance, and we indiscriminately wipe them away,” he says. His zooms in on ant lives long enough to capture them living, loving and working in their small world.

Infinite surprises are the rule, says Arun, when he wanders into the little world. “If you go in search of drama you will not find it. But if you observe these creatures for long, you can anticipate when a dramatic moment can spring up,” he says. To focus intently on a tiny creature and waiting for it to perform is a matter of discipline, he adds. In the course of the project he has come across an assorted collection of insects, worms and other small creatures. “I have always attempted to know what they are. But tying them down just to their name is another kind of slotting. However, there are beings like the spotted grasshopper that I have not seen ever since,” says Arun.

‘Politics of the Small’ is on at the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Art Gallery till March 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

. I believe it is important to first see the beauty around yourself