Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – REVIEW

A powerful selection of photographs that pack a visual and moral punch – and an almost perfect date setting… 

 They say opposites attract. Unfortunately, most snappy quotes don’t go on much to explain how you’re supposed to navigate the minefield of finding the perfect date scenarios. I quite like museums, He quite likes football. This does not equal the National Football Museum being a great afternoon out.

I decided to turn to the Natural History Museum for help; if it can keep thousands of small, snotty children from crying or whingeing for their iPad for at least five minutes day-after-day, I figured it shouldn’t be a problem to keep my rather older (in years, if not in spirit) other half vaguely engaged for an hour or so. I wanted to see the annual ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition and I figured if he got bored of that I could pack him off to look at some dinosaurs. As it was, the range of photographs on display were fascinating enough to keep even a complete philistine engaged, once again proving my theory that animals make the world a better place.

A theme which poignantly ran throughout the 100-photo exhibition with several serious photos bringing into stark focus the negative effect humans have on nature. The exhibition is split up into themes with the winner and finalist for each theme on display with an overall winner for adult and children’s photographer chosen from these.

The overall winning photograph from an adult photographer is an optimism sapping snap of dead rhino, his horn savagely sawn from its face, blood covering its side from a bullet wound, dolefully drooping ears and legs at a submissive angle. Its body dominates the whole frame, juxtaposing uncomfortably with the beautiful African savannah in the background.

This photo came from the one of the two photojournalist categories, which both contained plenty of photographs that made you stop and think about the impact human greed and consumerism has on the environment. Besides the rhino, the next most striking image was easily the seahorse carrying a pink cotton bud stick on the end of its tail, dwarfed by this plastic monstrosity within the beautiful ocean.

It was not all doom and gloom though – although if there is one criticism I would make about the selection of photos is that not many sat at the other end of the spectrum and caught the playfulness and joy animals can exhibit. Instead there were a lot of very candid portraits, majestic landscapes, sometimes dwarfing the animals that inhabit them, and a noted preference for photos that were partly the result of very fancy equipment. Personally my favourites were the ones that caught the essence of its subject’s feelings or daily life or picked up natural juxtapositions of colour and form, rather than those distorted colour, light and angle to produce more surreal images.

For example, this portrait of a bald eagle caught in the rain, made me smile (safely thousands of miles away from its powerful beak) because it was a face I recognise first thing every morning in the mirror.

Meanwhile, one of the photos by the portfolio award winner – ‘Before the tide turns’ kept drawing my eye because it wonderfully juxtaposed dramatic clouds, given depth by various shades of grey, against a foreground consisting of a dozen or so black fins of black tip reef sharks prowling ankle-deep, clear blue shallows.

If you’re looking for a date or just something to do on your own that will make you think and transport you out of dreary, wintery London, I definitely recommend heading on over to see this exhibition. Just be prepared for some sombre moments.

 The ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition will run at the Natural History Museum until the 28 May 2018. 

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