When Salem, Oregon-based designer and photographer Christopher Marley was a child, he frolicked across the countryside in search of scampering reptiles and scurrying feet that dove in and out of sight with the blink of an eye. With the passage of years, his affection for the earth and its many inhabitants has deepened, his eye for natural beauty sharpened in his adulthood. Today, his studio is packed full with specimens, mounted and frozen, small and large, vertebrate and invertebrate, animate and inanimate. With Biophilia, Marley expresses his ardor for the wilderness by presenting and photographing these organisms in ways that highlight the brilliance of their design, their lines, color, and form.
Marley understands why some species might inspire the heebie-jeebies, and in his youth, the artist was repelled by insects in particular. His love for the buzzing, flittering creatures began later in life when he began to notice the nuances of their geometries and the complexities of their many parts. Many of the insects used in his one-of-a-kind artworks and photographed for Biophilia were caught by Marley himself during his trips to Borneo or by colleagues all over the planet. Marley is a devoted proponent of collecting insects from the wild, explaining that insects are a sustainable resource that once tapped, could put pressure on native populations to protect and maintain the earth’s rain forests. Marley is most attracted to the more enigmatical insects, species that exist only in sequestered corners of the globe. In photographing them, he hopes to inspire a genuine reverence for their extraordinary structures.
Although the insects sometimes require quite a bit of time and patience to acquire, Marley’s vertebrate subjects are often the most difficult to amass. Each, he says, is sourced from a zoo, breeder, museum, or individual collector and has died of natural causes. Despite the fact that they have all passed away, the photographer has found that people tend to grow quite attached to the animals and can have a hard time surrendering them. Some procurements, admits Marley, have been fateful and once-in-a-lifetime deals.
Ultimately, Marley’s primary goal is to make the natural world resonate with and inspire those who fear it. Although he does do quite a bit of field work and has extensive knowledge of many of the species with whom he comes into contact, he is most concerned their aesthetic qualities, with the undeniable beauty that can touch even the most skeptical of readers. When asked whether Biophilia and his business Pheromone, through which he sells his original pieces, have changed his relationship with the environment and its manifold critters, Marley admits that this has been his passion since boyhood. Says the artist of the natural world, “I love it as I always have; we’ve only grown closer over the years.”
Purchase Biophilia here.
Tropical Fish Mosaic
All images © Christopher Marley