By Jack Williams
This macro photographer jokes about having a fetish for feet… all eight of them.
Michael Pankratz’s intriguing works focus specifically on the feet of tarantulas – an appendage that many have perhaps never focused on.
The extreme close-ups of tarantulas’ “paws” show fine, colourful hairs, and sharp claws.
Of his images, Michael said: “Through these macro lenses and their images we’re able to travel into the world of our minuscule subjects, to go eye-to-eye with them in a direct encounter.
“True, they’re experienced as larger-than-life – and yet the reality may be that it’s only in this manner that they’re seen and experienced as they genuinely are.”
The 54-year-old photographer said that he actually developed a fair amount of arachnophobia in his younger years, but when dealing with tarantulas, Michael said, those feelings would go away.
The scientific name for the makeup of a spider’s “paw” is a tarsus, one of eight parts that make up a single one of the insect’s leg.
But the legs themselves also happen to look adorable close-up – something that Michael is keen to point out.
In his lifetime, the photographer has raised more than 100 tarantulas, and his photo archive is now into the tens of thousands.
His fascination with their feet specifically, Michael said, came from how macro photographs would offer “surreal and vibrant displays of form and colour, often exhibited by the tufts of setae (tiny hairs) surrounding the spiders’ tibial claws.”
Michael, who continues to add to his collection, added: “Today the number of tarantula species is astounding.
“Before getting into the hobby, I had little idea of the enormous number of species living throughout the world, nor of the vast abundance of beauty, color and form which I’d eventually encounter through the camera.
“While my personal appreciation of tarantulas has perhaps been primarily aesthetic, my growing involvement with the very passionate and remarkably prolific hobby of tarantula-keeping has been an enormously important counterpart to my photography, helping me to approach a more full and appropriate understanding of these most fascinating animals.
“It’s also connected me with a world of friends who, like me, have discovered a passion for tarantulas.
“Over the years they’ve offered truly generous expressions of appreciation for my photos.
“I never expected that and I continue to be surprised by it.
“Their encouragement has motivated me to keep striving to improve as a photographer.”