Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates

Photographs by Susan Middleton

Exhibition Website

Sep 17 2016 - Dec 31 2016

The result of seven years of fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, and showcasing the photographic techniques Susan Middleton has developed over the past three decades, this exhibition presents 50 portraits of rarely or never-before-seen ocean dwellers. Middleton visually isolates each creature she photographs to best capture its individual character and to spotlight the dazzling natural blueprints inherent in the marine invertebrate realm of life. From a juvenile Pacific Giant Octopus, to the Widehand Hermit Crab, Middleton’s images open our eyes to both the fragility and the resiliency of these species.

Susan Middleton is an acclaimed photographer, author, and lecturer specializing in portraiture of rare and endangered animals, plants, sites, and cultures. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009, for many years she was the chair of the Department of Photography at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where she currently serves as research associate. Her photographs have been exhibited worldwide in fine art and natural history contexts and are represented in the permanent collections of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Gallery of Art. She is the author of Evidence of Evolution and Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, The Backbone of Life.

Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not,  the accompanying publication, Spineless , explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life.  This collection of more than 250 remarkable images is the result of seven years of painstaking fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, using photographic techniques that Middleton developed to capture these extremely fragile creatures on camera. She also provides short essays that examine the place these invertebrates occupy on the tree of life, their vast array of forms, and their lives in the ocean. Scientist Bernadette Holthuis contributes profiles describing each species, many of them for the first time. Middleton’s book is a stunning new view of nature that harmoniously combines art and science.

  • Photography
  • Contemporary
  • Animals / Wildlife / Nature
  • Susan Middleton

Exhibition Venues & Dates