Tag Archives: Sam Jaffe

Life on the Leaf Edge: Photographs of Native Caterpillars

cat-11At the Museum of American Bird Art from January 31-April 24, 2016

Sam Jaffe’s spectacular photographs of New England caterpillars reveal their astonishing beauty, reminding us that we don’t need to venture far from home to be captivated by nature’s wonders.

A New England based naturalist, photographer, and educator, Jaffe grew up in Eastern Massachusetts chasing birds, mucking through ponds, and turning over leaves.  For the last seven years he has been photographing caterpillars, exhibiting his photographs and organizing programs to promote these special creatures to the public.

His photographs have received widespread acclaim. They have been featured in the Wall Street JournalThe Guardian and on the widely read art and design blog, This is Colossal. Jaffe has exhibited at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics, among other venues.

Each year Jaffe raises thousands of caterpillars of hundreds of native species, capturing female butterflies and moths, collecting their eggs and releasing them. The founder of the non-profit The Caterpillar Lab, Jaffe’s goal is to share his passion for the caterpillars of New England through first-hand encounters at museums and nature centers as well as the stunning images in his photographs and videos.

Life on the Leaf Edge: Photographs of Native Caterpillars by Samuel Jaffe is open to the public January 31 through April 24, Tuesday–Sunday from 1 to 5 pm.

The Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon (MABA) is an art museum within New England’s largest conservation organization, connecting people and nature through art. The exhibitions feature art by internationally recognized artists inspired by nature. The Museum is located at 963 Washington Street in Canton and is sited within a 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.


Butterflies! at the Berkshire Museum

Paul Villinski Arcus ©Kim Smith 2014Detail of Paul Villinski’s “Arcus,” made from recycled cans.

Kim Smith Berkshire Museum Butterflies ©Kim Smith 2014My friend Sam Jaffe talking about caterpillars.

Friday night I had the joy to attend the fabulous new exhibit at the Berkshire Museum titled “Butterflies!” The galleries are filled with hands on art and science activities, contemporary butterfly sculpture, artifacts from the museum’s collections, live caterpillars, and mixed media of photography and film, including an audio track from Dr. Lincoln Brower discussing what happens within a chrysalis. And, as part of the exhibit, one of the galleries houses a large butterfly pavilion with over 200 live tropical butterflies from around the world!

Blue Morpho Butterfly ©Kim Smith 2014Underwings of the Blue Morpho Butterfly from the live butterfly pavilion.

“Butterflies” was curated by Maria Mingalone, the museum’s director of interpretation, and she deftly and beautifully combines science, art, and nature in an exhibit that is sure to inspire and delight the very youngest to the most senior of citizens, and every age in between!

Butterflies Berkshire Museum ©Kim Smith 2014  copyThe opening was very joyful and buoyant—I most certainly felt that way and, judging from the expressions on visitor’s faces, wasn’t alone. I am convinced that butterflies bring out the happy in people!

Kim Smith film Berkshire Museum Butterflies ©Kim Smith 2014JPGThe audience for my short film “Flight of the Monarchs”—I watched as many people watched my film many times over, despite the case that because the galleries were so crowded you couldn’t hear the beautiful music. I think there were several thousand people at the event.

The music that I set my film to is “Fields of Blue,” written and performed by Jesse Cook. I wrote the artist and sent him a copy of my film and the most amazing thing happened where, within only the few day whirlwind to create this little film, we were granted permission to use his song!!!!!!!!

My film opens with a clip of a Monarch flying in front of Eastern Point Lighthouse (you can see our Lighthouse in the above photo). Most of the footage that I used for the movie was of butterflies in flight, shot on Cape Ann, and the audience was stunned at how beautiful the migration is through Gloucester. That opening clip of the Lighthouse and the Monarch took several days to capture the exact shot that I wanted. Butterflies don’t take direction!

Berkshire Museum ©Kim Smith 2014 -2Berkshire Museum Kim Smith 2014 1JPGSome of my photos were used to illustrate Dr. Brower’s audio recording explaining what happens inside a chrysalis.

Sam Jaffe Kathy©Kim Smith 2014 copySam and his fiance Kathy, also a graduate student in environmental studies.

Berkshire Museum © Kim Smith 2014JPGIf you have never been to the Berkshire Museum, their website description reads as follows: “The Berkshire Museum offers a unique array of exhibitions, activities, and attractions for visitors of all ages. From fine art and ancient objects to fossils; from an aquarium of native and exotic creatures to the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, we are your community museum: a place where everyone, from toddlers to elders, can learn, play, explore, innovate, be engaged and inspired.”

I arrived early, before “Butterflies” opened its door, and explored the galleries. It’s really a very engaging museum and especially while the exhibit is running, would be a wonderfully fun and interesting day trip with children.

Sam Jaffe ©Kim Smith 2014Sam Jaffe making final adjustments to the chrysalis and cocoon display. To see some of Sam’s stunning photography, click on his website here: Sam Jaffee

Olive Ridley skeleton ©Kim Smith 2014Olive Ridley Skeleton at the Berkshire Museum

See more photos from the Berkshire Museum galleries Continue reading

Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts

Sam Jaffe writes:

Turbulent Phosphila (Phosphila turbulenta)

Dear friends, family, and fellow naturalists,

I would like to formally announce this summer’s exciting new caterpillar exhibit:
 The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts  an exhibit of photography, local natural history, and live caterpillars.
June 30th to September 12th, 2011
Click here to visit my new website www.spjaffe.com for more information on the exhibit, and for a listing of the live caterpillar show dates.
Click here to visit my online galleries www.pbase.com/spjaffe and get a feel for my work.

If you’re interested in helping out with the project, you can make a tax-deductible donation (any bit will help) and/or pass along this announcement! I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all who have contributed their time and resources to making this exhibit possible.  I am responsible for funding this project, and I could not have gotten this far without you!  

Looking forward to seeing you all there,

– Sam

The Caterpillars of Eastern Massachusetts
Too few people ever realize the natural wonder that Massachusetts’ biological systems have to offer, instead they assume that real biological diversity only exists in the tropics or other far away places. Yet our native flora and fauna are diverse and anything but mundane. Since childhood I have sought to identify and catalog the many species that inhabit our green spaces, from the smallest vacant lots to the largest wildlife refuges. This quest has provided me with a unique education in the natural history of New England.

In the fall of 2008 I began photographing caterpillars. These larval insects demonstrate a diversity of morphology and behavior better than perhaps any other group of animals in this region, and yet, they remain relatively unknown to even the most dedicated of naturalists. Through my photography, and through documenting the life histories of the species I find and raise, I hope to share some of what I have learned about the quality of our native biome.

In ages of exploration, drawing and painting were important tools used to document new discoveries. Old illustrations of insects regularly depict the subject and its food source alone on a page, isolated from background distractions. However, the desire to visually record an insect’s behavior and life history often infused these images with life and motion, and many artistic and powerful compositions resulted. These classical natural history pieces are the source of my inspiration. Isolated against a black background, the caterpillars are conspicuous and sculptural. Further, each species is shown upon its native hostplant and each composition aims to tell a story about its subject’s unique natural history.

Sam’s Note about the above photo of the Turbulent Phosphila: This group was collected September 4th from Medfield MA, but many such groups were found throughout August and the first part of September wherever Greenbrier was present. These caterpillars rest quietly on the underside of larger leaves during the day, but when they are disturbed they will first undulate their bodies in unison and then, given further prodding, leap off the leaf and hang in mid-air. A group of over 150 early instars diving off a leaf together is quite a sight!
Feel free to contact me with questions and ideas:Sam Jaffe