Ronen Goldman is a conceptual photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel. From personal projects to commercial assignments, his images (and cinemagraphs) embody a level of surrealism. He makes sure to stay within the client’s vision, knowing when and how to incorporate his distinct style to the fullest. A perfect showcase of this, is his recent work for FreezeM. The lab, located on Kibbutz Nahshonim, has climate-controlled facilities for growing and monitoring larvae in efforts to create and distribute sustainable animal feed: insects – specifically, the Black Soldier Fly (BSF).
On their website, FreezeM is described as “A ‘Seed’ Company for The Insect Industry,” sending insects eggs (neonates) from their lab to insect factories. The larva of the BSF provides a more sustainable source of protein for the animal feed industry, which would positively impact “the wellbeing of a growing human population.”
Ronen was introduced to this project by his friend Yoav Politi Ph.D., co-founder and head scientist at FreezeM. The start-up received additional funding, creating a need for expansion, so Ronen sat down with them to discuss the expectations for the final images. Since it is a relatively new field, it was important to have content that would explain the mission and process. Environmental portraits were also requested, to “showcase the people and values behind the company.”
FreezeM wanted to document their progress in the lab, which made Ronen’s macro photography skills an integral factor. He used this method to get a close up of the Black Soldier Fly and larva “in all its glory.” He was able to catch intricate details of his subjects – from the stage of an egg to neonate, to larvae pupae and then fly – that would not be compromised if they were later printed in large format. The neonates were a challenge to photograph, however, as they were constantly moving in the petri dish.
Macro photography is a highly technical field, which requires a deep understanding of the optics and lights you are working with, together with how to push their limits of what they can capture. I used a macro lens I usually use for scanning film (Canon 100 Macro). It really is amazing to see the final result of the soldier fly with all its tiny hairs and details hanging on a poster as you enter the Lab.
Also, the legendary smell of the lab was like nothing I have ever experienced – at first, quite terrible, but after a short while you kind of get used to it and it’s not that big of a deal.
Ronen completed the PR images and Macro photography on the same day. He noted that the space in the lab was tight, which created an obstacle when it came to lighting. Since he visited the lab ahead of time, he was able to brainstorm a solution; Ronen and the scientists worked together to build a rig – and a grip to hold it in place – that would shine enough light to capture the larva at its smallest stage. This preparation helped ensure a successful photoshoot.
After figuring out and building the macro rig, the scientist that worked with me on it realized it was something they could actually use in their lab. So together we created their own macro rig to be used as part of their workflow process of validating numbers of the neonates. I think that makes me a scientist! (Sans any understanding of science.)
Once all the necessary images were taken, Ronen had time to experiment as well as provide FreezeM with additional content.
It can be daunting to suggest something creative to a client that might not be on board with anything out of the ordinary. But I learned to always do that, since it’s those ‘risky’ photos that really are my style and bring to fruition everything I believe in as an artist, beyond being a technical photographer.
Familiar with Ronen’s work and style, the people at FreezeM were open to all of his requests, trusting his judgment, approach, and process.
In the last image, scientists stand around what seems to be a seated, human-sized Black Soldier Fly in a blazer.
I love creating portraits of interesting people and learning about their profession and tools of the trade. They were truly curious and open-minded people. They wanted to know how all the equipment worked, why I’m positioning lights in certain ways, and what the effects were. It really was a collaborative and trusting atmosphere which I think made the result what it is.
The FreezeM team was more than happy with their finished visual assets and grateful for Ronen Goldman’s conceptual addition.
See more of Ronen’s images on his Instagram.