This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Tropical plants aren’t abundant in the northern latitudes of Montreal, Canada. Nor are the planet’s most diverse animals, insects. Even so, Montreal-based artist and photographer Raku Inoue finds a way to showcase both with his colorful portraits of insects and other animals made from flowers, leaves, twigs, seeds, and stems.
“Insects have always been symbolic for me,” says Inoue, who grew up in Japan. Each summer his grandmother would leave the door open to cool their house in the countryside near Hiroshima and welcome in dragonflies, an insect that she believed represented the presence of her late husband.
Now Inoue makes dragonflies, beetles, ants, and whatever else inspires him, using materials from his own backyard. He takes leftover rose petals and baby’s breath from nearby florists, and occasionally people will send him plants from other parts of the world to challenge his creativity. During a recent trip to the American Southwest, he wanted badly to see a scorpion. When none appeared, he did the next best thing: He collected twigs and seeds, and made one.