At the entrance to the exhibition, text informs one that the jury’s selection is like “a call to action – a plea to band together and cease our destruction of the natural world.”
From an entry of some 50,000 images only 100 appear; these are the award winners and we are asked to respect their copyright and not make copies of the images which begs questions about the real motives behind this exhibition being “a call to action”! As Lewis Blackwell, chair of the jury, writes of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 … “images this good can help inspire and educate”. However one does have the facility to upload images from the exhibition to Facebook so the polite refusal I got to use images on my blog appears misplaced!! (In fact, I emailed the press office at the museum who responded with permission to use a number of images; attendants are sometime volunteers who do not know the rules.)
Unfortunately by encouraging a high level of competition often dependent on expensive camera gear and access to special locations, wildlife photography is not being allowed to develop as a medium concerned with accurate representation of subjects as their portrayal is conditioned by popular aesthetics such as oversaturated colours and heavy contrast. Images are designed for impact rather than informing the viewer.
At the entrance I am told there is no audio guide yet one can go online and listen to the captions available in a variety of different languages. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy/captions
Not only are the photographers mentioned by name, technical details are included while there is a world map to show where the image was made. There is a wealth of knowledge on offer to help better understand the subject being portrayed.
The photographs appear on screen rather than as prints though elsewhere when this exhibition tours, prints may be made. Arguably backlit photographs shown via the screen is the best way to view the image as they reflect the original view of the photographer.
The winner of amphibian and reptile behaviour section is Brian Skerry with a photograph of a turtle on a beach made with flash and a long exposure so that the turtle detail remains while the sea swirls around in the background. A judge commented on the eerie atmosphere that made her consider the vulnerability of the species. In my view, the ghostly shadows to the right of the turtle rather spoil this image.
A finalist of the Invertebrates behaviour section is a Hungarian Imre Potyo who has managed to catch a couple of moths hunting at night by using a double exposure and stroboscopic flash. Two lenses were used also a torch to catch both moths and night sky.
A finalist of the animals in the environment category is Jaime Rojo from Spain which shows a mass of butterflies with only one just below centre with its’ wings out. Although visually stunning, one needs what is happening pointing out as it is not clear.
The next image of a lone male ibex sheltering in the snow on a precipitous cliff face is visually compelling as it takes a moment for the eye to adjust.
None of the five bird behaviour photographs interest me much although one technicality used in two photographs is remote flash. One of these, an up close view of Maribou Storks at a kill after the vultures had left is striking.
I am more impressed by an image called “Hornbill losing patience” made by a young Indian photographer called Dhanu Paran who shows a Great Hornbill flapping it’s wings at a langur monkey that has strayed too close for comfort. Apparently he trekked for 22 kilometres to make this image. (The photographer gave me his permission to use this image after I contacted him).
Beside this is another image of wild boar crossing a floodlit road at night who are for some reason using the Zebra crossing marked out for pedestrian use. Made in Spain this image is both humorous and an interesting insight into what goes on while the city sleeps.
The animal portraits section includes both colour and monochrome sections. One of these strikes me on account of the backlighting which is not supplied by nature but by stroboscopic flashes.
The People’s Choice category is a slideshow from which one can choose an image for the award; images are fully onscreen for nine seconds each. There are some good bird images here such as a stork head hanging ponderously over a chick that sits between the adults legs and an reddish-orange eyed owl that looks directly down at the photographer from a tangle of branches yet my overall favourite is a black and white image of an African man sitting on the back seat of an automobile with his arms around an ape; both ape and human are smiling warmly apparently thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Titled “Pikin and Apolinaire” this photograph is by Jo Anne MacArthur from Canada and gets my vote. (I later learn that this image is selected as the winner).
The overall winner of the competition is from the documentary portfolio section and reveals a heart rendering image of a dead black bull rhino lying on the ground with one eye almost open and the red fleshy area from where the horn has been cut away. “Memorial to a species” is by Brent Stilton who works on long term projects for National Geographic. Fill flash has been used and so allows the sky detail to be retained; light filters through to be shown in detail, an important symbol in the message behind this image. 07.02
Under Urban wildlife, I am struck by Cat Attack in which a cat claws at a Lesser Kestrel defending it’s nest in Matera, a village that is home to Europe’s largest breeding colony of this species.
There are so many great images in this exhibition as always but I shall allow myself one more which is by Charlie Hamilton James; at first it looks like a portrait of a young native girl her head only visible above green water until one spots the small pet tamarin sitting in her hair. This was a finalist in the Wildlife Photojournalist Award.
The final image I am showing is another one the organisers allowed me to download …