Photographers, like painters, have always delighted in capturing the glories of nature. With trained eyes, a love of the world around them, and an instinctive understanding of light and colour, they have captured the essence of the natural world for those of us whose ways of seeing limit the pleasures to be had from nature’s kaleidoscope.

Some artists, not satisfied with simply recording the world around them, have added their own imagination and technical skills to turn elements of the living world into abstract forms. Which is what the two artists in this show – a Frenchman and an American –done, with colour and design being the imperatives driving their work.

The American, Mark Laita, has been photographing snakes for more than a decade. Born in Detroit in 1960, he discovered photography in his teens when the family moved to Chicago. He found work in local studios after school, and went on to study photography in college where he gained a BA.

Few species of snakes have eluded his lens. There have been pastel pythons, vibrant vipers, a blue Malaysian coral snake, an albino Honduran milk snake, and a deadly black mamba that bit him in the leg. He survived because the bite was dry and without venom.

Laita says his pictures of snakes get their strength from the tension that exists between beauty and danger, with the symbolism connected with snakes adding an additional layer of sensuality. “I’m not trying to tell you what a snake looks like,” he explains. “It’s just a beautiful form – something compelling, sensual, and captivating.”

Yann Layma was attracted to creatures that fly rather than slither. Two years younger than Laita, he was born in the Touraine region of northwest France, home to Balzac, Descartes, and a lot of butterflies. A chance meeting turned the young Layma into the disciple of a leading entomologist who taught him all there was to know about these beautiful, delicate creatures.

Once an established photographer, Layma looked closer at butterflies and particularly at their wings. Here he found potential to experiment with micro and macro photography. By enlarging very small areas of wings he was able to produce abstract images much closer in style to the work of abstract painters than to work normally associated with nature’s leading photographers.

Layma has lived and worked in China, a country he fell in love with and recorded with a searching but compassionate eye. He has also faced a long struggle with bipolar disorder, a struggle he courageously recounts in his book I Had to Ride the Storm: The Tribulations of a Bipolar.