Levon Biss: ‘Microsculpture’ at The Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Wasp Mimic Hoverfly, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Ground Beetle, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Marion Flightless Moth, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Splendid-necked Dung Beetle, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Tiger Beetle, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Treehopper, from the series 'Microsculpture' © Levon Biss

Microsculpture presents the insect collection of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History like never before. The result of a collaboration between the Museum and photographer Levon Biss, this series of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits captures the microscopic form of insects in striking large-format and high-resolution detail.

On show in the main court of the Museum, surrounded by stunning Neo-Gothic architecture, the largest of Microsculpture’s photographic prints, printed using our Direct to Media UV printing service, measure up to three metres across and surround the visitor. Seen alongside the tiny insect specimens themselves, this huge transformation of scale offers a unique viewing experience.

Text provides information about each creature in the show, while the photographs allow visitors to scrutinise tiny structures up close and then step back to take in the beauty of the insect as a whole.

Taking up to three weeks to shoot, process and retouch, each image from the series is comprised of approximately 30 different sections depending on the size of the specimen. Biss explains:

“Each image from the Microsculpture project is created from around 8000 individual photographs.  The pinned insect is placed on an adapted microscope stage that enables me to have complete control over the positioning of the specimen in front of the lens.  I shoot with a 36-megapixel camera that has a 10x microscope objective attached to it via a 200mm prime lens.

Each section is lit differently with strobe lights to bring out the micro sculptural beauty of that particular section of the body.  For example, I will light and shoot just one antennae, then after I have completed this area I will move onto the eye and the lighting set up will change entirely to suit the texture and contours of that part area of the body.  I continue this process until I have covered the whole surface area of the insect.”

The Museum of Natural History receives around 650,000 visitors a year and was a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015. Its internationally-important insect collection contains more than seven million specimens drawn from every country in the world, including specimens from some of the most remote regions and islands. Combined, the Museum’s collections represent a vast repository of information on biodiversity.

The entomology collection also has significant cultural and historical value, containing the world’s oldest pinned insect specimen and many thousands of insects collected by pioneering Victorian explorers and biologists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

Microsculpture at The Oxford University Museum of Natural History:

27 May  2016 – 29 January 2017

Oxford Museum of Natural History,

Parks Rd,


OX1 3PW.

Visit The Microsculpture Website