DELINQUENT
OBLIGATIONS

Dear
Poul
Beckmann

Thank you for your beautiful photos of beetles.

I came across your work first in a coffee table book, in a display at a Borders bookstore, I think? I was astonished. I was in college, and couldn't afford to buy it. Large format, full color, fancy photography - way out of my price range for a design student with zero disposable income. But I was absolutely enraptured. If I remember correctly, I went back to the bookstore multiple times to flip through the book. I later received a copy as a gift for Christmas.

Obviously, the photos are gorgeous, and they were the first of its kind I'd seen: super macro photographs of beetles. But looking closer: wow! So much variety, so otherworldly, and so beautiful. I felt richer by realizing that I share a world with these creatures. That they were everywhere! This astonishing, gobsmacking beauty was quite literally at my feet, if I could only care to look.

A total inversion of my place in the world: from a student who couldn't afford a book to a monarch surrounded by uncountable jewels.

And - AND: the realization that there are SO many beetle species! That a QUARTER of all animal species on the planet are beetles, and that they are everywhere, and we are discovering new ones all the time!

Whatever your religious convictions might be, from that point on, I was convinced: there's something out there in the universe that likes to MAKE beauty, and it must be for its own sake, for its own pleasure. There are too many beetles! We don't know about them, we have not discovered them, there are beautiful creatures in the world that no human has ever seen or appreciated, going about their gorgeous business.

And then! Zoom backwards in time: how many of these little jewels existed before people? It's got to be orders of magnitude more, right? And then zoom OUT: we could multiply my little realization times every star in the sky.

I recognize that this is not a unique observation: we've had at least two thousand years of religion telling reminding us (and lillies of the field, and the sparrows too). But spending time with your photographs helped hammer this into my brain.

I've adopted the beetle as a kind of low-key spirit animal: the Ex Libris stamp that I mark every book is drawn from your photo of Chrysina Karshi, and I use it as a pseudo-logo for my self-centered reading log. I don't have any tattoos, but the only one I've ever seriously considred was Chrysina Karshi.

Anyways. Your photographs are beautiful, and they both convinced me and continue to remind me that the world is FULL - packed beyond comprehension - of beauty. Thank you for sharing them.

Matt
January 26, 2024

UM WHAT

This is Matt Kirkland's corrective project for 2024: learn how to write thank you notes.