Portuguese man o’ wars have terrifying stingers and even more terrifying names, but photographer Aaron Ansarov has taken what has scared us and turned it into something incredibly striking. In these photographs, the animal is both the subject and the medium; Ansarov picks up man o’ wars washed up on the beach, transports them in seawater to his studio, puts them on a makeshift light table and makes the following images from them. After he’s done, he transports them back to the beach, where they either remain beached or are washed back into the ocean; Ansarov prefers to leave them exactly where he has found them, allowing natural processes to kill or save the animals.
The piece is both visually and conceptually stunning, as it forces us to confront and rethink that which we deem merely a stinging annoyance. He aestheticizes the animal in a way that allows entry into the realm of art photography rather than nature photography, which, as a photographer myself, really excites me. It’s documentary, conceptual, and aesthetic, all at the same time. Here are a few photos from Ansarov’s website: