American photographer Emmet Gowin (b. 1941) is best known for his portraits of his wife, Edith, and their family, as well as for his images documenting the impact of human activity upon landscapes around the world. For the past fifteen years, he has been engaged in an equally profound project on a different scale, capturing the exquisite beauty of more than one thousand species of nocturnal moths in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, and Panama.
These stunning color portraits present the insects—many of which may never have been photographed as living specimens before, and some of which may not be seen again—arrayed in typologies of twenty-five per sheet. The moths are photographed alive, in natural positions and postures, and set against a variety of backgrounds taken from the natural world and images from art history.
Throughout Gowin’s distinguished career, his work has addressed urgent concerns. The arresting images of Mariposas Nocturnas extend this reach, as Gowin fosters awareness for a part of nature that is generally left unobserved and calls for a greater awareness of the biodiversity and value of the tropics as a universally shared natural treasure. An essay by Gowin provides a fascinating personal history of his work with biologists and introduces both the photographic and philosophical processes behind this extraordinary project.
Essential reading for audiences both in photography and natural history, this lavishly illustrated volume reminds readers that, as Terry Tempest Williams writes in her foreword, “The world is saturated with loveliness, inhabited by others far more adept at living with uncertainty than we are.”
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2018 PROSE Award in Popular Science & Popular Mathematics, Association of American Publishers
- One of British Journal of Photography’s Chiara Bardelli Nonino Best Books of 2017
- Times Literary Supplement's Books of the Year 2018
"Alive, in color and against assorted backdrops from art history, Mr. Gowin's moths portray an acceptance of uncertainty in scientific discovery, the creative process and life more generally. They also present an exchange of beauty, a childlike curiosity and an appreciation for the hidden ties between humans and moths."—JoAnna Klein, New York Times
"Moths fly by night and Gowin's project is, at its heart, about drawing his jewels out of the shadows. In this sense, Mariposas Nocturnas returns full circle to the invention of photography itself."—Andrea K. Scott, New Yorker
"A book of astonishing beauty."—Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement
"Entomological glory flutters in Mariposas Nocturnas (Princeton University Press), photographer Emmet Gowin’s hard-won homage to South American lepidoptera. . . . Arranged in typologies of 25, they form a morphologically varied, vividly hued patchwork."—Barb Kiser, Nature
"[A] herculean task. . . . Each insect is captured in a natural position and posture, making the project as valuable to entomologists as it is to photographers. . . . Moths are splendid creatures that mostly go unnoticed, but Emmet has succeeded in bringing them centre stage."—Tracy Calder, Amateur Photographer
"Richly detailed. . . . [An] epic undertaking."—Gemma Padley, British Journal of Photography
"After photographing thousands of species, Gowin has organised them into tile effect panels, with 25 pictures per panel, and the results are powerful. This large-format book befits Gowin's ambitious project."—Outdoor Photography
"A dazzling array of more than 1,000 species of nocturnal moths in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana and Panama, captured close-up and in full color."—Los Angeles Times
"The overall presentation of this substantial work, with its significantly over-sized pages, rather heavy paper and somewhat stout dust-jacket reflects the fact that it is as much a work of 'art' as it is a revelation of moth diversity in the Americas. . . . An important contribution to the identification of moth species occurring there. . . . Anyone working in the region is likely to find the book useful and at what is a rather low price for a work of this size and high quality it is also a mightily fine tome to possess on one’s library shelves.""—Colin W. Plant, Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation
"The moths are truly beautiful and will amaze anyone who hasn't visited the tropics. . . . Gowin has to be commended for identifying his pictures and for assembling them into a very nicely produced book which meets his objectives of capturing the beauty and diversity of these moths."—Alan Martin, Atropos
"Mariposas Nocturnas is an object of beauty and a document of inestimable value. The late-career transformation of one of the most visionary artists of our time is movingly manifested in this extraordinary book."—Joel Smith, Morgan Library & Museum