Fortunately for the rest of us, he managed to combine his intellectual curiosity with a photographic fascination to create Curious Critters, a book aimed at the toddler set but holds the attention of adults as well.
“My father was an earth science teacher, my mom was an elementary school teacher interested in nature,” says FitzSimmons. “So from a very early age, I was out collecting worms, amphibians, turtles, salamanders, you name it.”
FitzSimmons graduated with a degree in English in 1991 and followed his parents into the teaching field as an English professor at Ashland University. But his development of an innovative camera technique created his side profession and proved to be the inspiration that led to Curious Critters.
“As I delved into my photography career, I became interested in picturing natural subjects,” he says. “Most people think of wildlife photography as bears and such, but I think much smaller.”
Using a special lens and a technique called “light-tent” photography, he rounded up a series of creepy crawlies and shot their portraits inside what is, essentially, a box constructed of a frame and white sheets.
There is no background, no natural landscape, to distract from the expressions and detail captured on these creatures’ faces.
“My favorite was the pink katydid,” he says. “It’s a bush katydid, but with a rare bubble-gum pink coloring mark. It’s a recessive trait, so the numbers of pink katydids are very small. I figured I’d never see one again in my life, so I took two hours photographing her. She spent the entire time grooming herself, fastidiously.”
FitzSimmons is taking time off from his day job to launch the book. He hopes his art exhibit and lecture tour encourage parents
to purchase Curious Critters and pass on the text’s ecological message. “It’s important to teach children about nature. I have two
children, Sarah and Phoebe, and I believe getting children interested in nature is key to environmental conservation. If children learn to love nature, they will grow to respect and conserve it.”
FitzSimmons speaks and signs his book at Xavier on Jan. 19, 2012, at a 5:00 p.m. reception (artist’s talk at 6:30). His corresponding photo exhibit runs at the Gallagher Student Center from Jan. 13 through Feb. 26.