Waiting for Butterflies

Creative director Scott Dadich talks about contributing photographer Dan Winters’s photo essay on lepidopterans.

texasmonthly.com: How did the idea to do a photo piece on butterflies come about?

Scott Dadich: This was an idea I had years ago, just after doing our barbecue photo essay on cuts of meat presented as insects in the May 2003 issue. Dan had done a piece for Texas Monthly called “Meet the Beetles” [June 1992] in which he took black and white portraits of Texas beetle specimens. He treated them like art objects, sculpture really, and they were just stunning. So it seemed like a no-brainer to do a combination of the two photo essays: show the variety of Texas lepidoptera and the beauty of the individual specimens.

texasmonthly.com: How long have you worked with contributing photographer Dan Winters? Does he usually pitch an idea? Or do you go to him?

SD: Dan and I have worked together for nearly six years now. The very first photos Dan made for me were the peach still lifes we ended up running in Texas Monthly in June of 2003. He actually shot them in 2000, and we held them for a few years waiting for the right time to run them. He and I have a very collaborative relationship—both of us tossing out ideas to one another. He comes to me with ideas, and I bring him ideas as well. We help each other refine the content and narrow our focus into a workable story.

texasmonthly.com: What was the thought process behind this photo feature on butterflies? Was there anything in particular you wanted to convey?

SD: We really wanted these to be very simple photographs. There should be no editorializing, no message making, just a simple, elegant presentation of these beautiful creatures. When I was a kid, I loved to catch butterflies and study them—I think most children in Texas do, and I wanted this piece to be a warm reminder of both growing up in Texas and of spring itself. I don’t think people realize that Texas is home to more species of lepidoptera than any other state in America, and I wanted to give our readers a sense of the biological treasures living in our midst. So Dan took the lead and really made some astonishing photographs. The detail and precision in these shots are really spectacular.

texasmonthly.com: What did you find most appealing about this project? Why?

SD: The chance to do something really beautiful and rewarding and—for once—non-controversial. I really relished the chance to make something that our readers can simply enjoy for its sheer physical beauty.

texasmonthly.com: What groupings of butterflies did you like the best? Why?

SD: My favorite grouping is the male and female swallowtail pair on the opener. I love the simplicity and power of that image combination.

texasmonthly.com: This will be your last collaboration with Dan Winters for Texas Monthly. At the close of this issue, you’ll be moving to San Francisco to be the creative director at Wired magazine. Was this something you really wanted to get in before leaving?

SD: Absolutely. I’ve been wanting to do this piece for years and all the cards fell into place. We’re having a beautiful spring here in the Hill Country, we had the pages available in the issue, and Dan had the time in his already busy shooting schedule to make this piece for us. I’m just thrilled to end my time at Texas Monthly with such a beautiful and rewarding piece.

texasmonthly.com: Looking back on your career at Texas Monthly, what three art pieces really stick out in your mind?

SD: Certainly the barbecue photo essay with Dan I referenced earlier. I’m also enormously proud of the piece Steve Brodner did for us in the May 2005 issue called “In America.” He spent a week living in the colonias of South Texas documenting the uplifting story of new Americans trying to build new lives and make ends meet. He did a remarkable job. I also love the “Retail Politics” opening spread I did with Brent Humphreys in January 2006.

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