Published: June 2013

Photo Journal

Bluejay feathers up close

Backyard Treasure

Photographs and text by Aaron Ansarov, Aurora Photos

A few years ago I was medically retired from the U.S. Navy, where I’d been a combat photographer. As therapy, I wandered my Virginia backyard and bonded with my young son, teaching him about the animals we encountered. He suggested we escort a few inside and photograph them in detail. When we did, their colors and textures looked larger than life.

Since then we’ve moved, first to Georgia, then to Florida. We’ve also spent time in Poland, where my wife was born. But everywhere we’ve gone, the same thing has happened: New “neighbors”—like a blue jay (above), which chased a dragonfly right into our house, or a curled-up pill bug (left), which we found beneath a log—answer our “critter casting calls.” Some even show up at the back door in the morning, as though waiting for their star turn.

This hyper-local approach has given me a new outlook. It doesn’t matter where you live, only what you see around you. I have two rules with this project. The first is that captured creatures must be released unharmed. The second rule is that I keep shoots to 15 minutes or less, even if I don’t get the picture I hoped for. I don’t want to frighten my subjects. Besides, there’s always another time—they live right here.

More of Aaron Ansarov’s work can be seen at and
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