By Naomi Thomas

A new art exhibit at the at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia lets you get up close and personal with the wildlife living among us.

The exhibit of photographs taken by Chuck Murphy and Jena Johnson is part of a worldwide project involving more than 70 photographers. Called “Meet Your Neighbours,” it is “an international, biodiversity, consciousness, awareness raising project with over 70 photographers worldwide on six continents,” Murphy said.

The photographs in “Meet Your Neighbours” differ from typical nature pictures in that they are shot on location in a field studio against a brilliant white background that removes the environment, leaving only the subject.

The process for getting these photos is a lot more challenging, Murphy said.

It’s “more than clicking a button; you need a little bit of engineering and a little bit of handyman stuff to work out the different setups, and persistence because the first one never works,” he said.

Murphy has been shooting photos for more than 50 years and his interests are birds, bugs and blooms.

Johnson, who met Murphy through the Athens Photography Guild about two years ago, is a research professional at UGA. She became serious about photography in 2009, the year the “Meet Your Neighbours” project began, and has been contributing to it since June 2016, when she and Murphy decided to take on a joint project.

Although the majority of the exhibit follows the “Meet Your Neighbors” guidelines, there are a few exceptions. These include Murphy’s work showing nocturnal animals against black backgrounds and Johnson’s composite of shells of Georgia.

Murphy believes the importance of the project lies in the awareness it creates about the creatures in the Athens area. From there visitors to the exhibit are directed to a website and social media to learn more about the project.

“Are we saving some endangered species?” Murphy said. “Nope, but maybe, just maybe, by showing you this extreme, detailed, isolated, formal portrait view of the creatures in your own backyard, maybe, just maybe, we’re nudging the needle a lit bit on the direction of awareness.”

The exhibit will be up in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia Visitor’s Center through Oct. 8. Admission is free.


For more information on the Meet Your Neighbours Project visit

You may also consider attending the upcoming Isect-ival! on Sept. 23 and the Johnstone Lecture on Backyard Bugs, Sept. 26, to learn more about your outdoor neighbors.