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By now, you’ve probably noticed the billboards around town flaunting beautiful pictures of distant landscapes with the caption, “Shot on iPhone.”

Well, one of Metro Detroit’s own is taking pictures so stunning that she may land herself a billboard deal in the not too distant future.

Molly Tamulevich, a big hearted and unapologetic nerd for anthropoids (or bugs for us laymen), has combined her love of photography with these oft neglected miniature creatures of the world, and turned it into an art project that is turning heads on her Instagram account, and now, in print form at The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor, MI.

Armed with nothing more than an iPhone and a macro lens, Tamulevich has created a series of remarkable photos which highlight the unique beauty that most us miss as we run full speed away from a bee, or squash a spider under our shoes.

We spoke with Tamulevich about how she got into this fascinating hobby, the plight of the ugly duckling, and how she hopes her work will help raise awareness for the little guy.

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“My interest in offbeat critters was more of an aesthetic choice – I have a squid tattoo and beetle-themed home décor – until I began a career in animal welfare after college.”

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“Working with homeless animals has a way of opening your heart to the smallest suffering. When I saw the effects of animal abuse first hand, I started to change the way I interacted with species I had previously ignored.”

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“Through school, I was able to learn about other types of animals, and, I gravitated toward those alien creatures that make up the majority of the animal biomass on this planet: invertebrates. Insects and their relatives are fierce, they are delicate, and they are EVERYWHERE. A majority of my pictures come from backyards.”

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“I started taking photos of invertebrates because I felt like I was peering into a secret world. I use a detachable macro lens and an iPhone 5 for most of my shots, but even with that basic setup, I have seen stories worthy of National Geographic: mating dances, feats of strength, and architectural marvels.”

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I won’t go so far to say that their personalities are as complex as a dog or cat’s, but I have been able to observe individual differences that have surprised me. Some spiders rear up and attack my lens, hopping on it and waving their arms even though it’s easily twenty times their size. Others run away quickly, never turning around. They aren’t boring subjects; they are dynamic and engaging and I love them for it.”

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“Conservation groups often struggle with publicity. It’s easy to ask people to sympathize with a tiger or an elephant. It’s much harder to get public support for a spider or a worm or a frog, even though they may play a critical role in an ecosystem. However, becoming involved with the macrophotography community on Instagram has made me realize that we may not have to struggle with PR any more.”

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“Up close, we can see that insects share many of the features that humans find compelling in mammals and birds: They have eyelashes and hair. They can be fierce and whimsical. A caterpillar may not have facial expressions, but its markings are reminiscent of more relatable animals. They’re definitely creepy, but it’s possible to spin them as cute.”

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Her talent and passion for these misunderstood creatures is the cornerstone of her work.

“I take photos of insects because I appreciate the challenge. I feel like it allows me to highlight lives that we rarely see, even when they are trundling along right under our noses. It’s a combination of art, activism, and science fair geekery. It’s a reminder to think of others, that the rocks I move or the steps I take might be disrupting or creating a whole new environment for someone.”

To see more of Molly’s outstanding work, be sure to follow her on Instagram. You can also contact her by email to order prints or discuss showings.