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    REVIEW: Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award, Natural History Museum, London

    by Emma Sorensen
    Arts Hub
    Thursday, April 17, 2008


    The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award Exhibition is testament both to nature’s beauty and the skill and patience needed to photograph it. Most of the images – extreme environments, urban and wild animals – could have been ripped straight from the pages of National Geographic magazine. And yet it is when they are hung in a gallery that they really come to life.

    Wonderfully, for aspiring photographers, the details of the camera, aperture, tripod, shutter speed used and other technical details are listed under each photograph. There’s also a quote from the photographer, which often adds a certain poignancy to the photograph.

    You discover logistical things like how many pieces of bread it took before Finnish photographer Ari Tervo could get a good shot of a Stoat in his friend’s garden – twenty, to be precise, and the stoat looks pretty pleased as he grips the twentieth slice of bread for the camera in the resulting photograph Stoat Sandwich.

    Other highlights include: Anna Henly’s Encounter, of a white arctic fox front on, barely visible on the ice; and Andrew Walmsley’s Amber Thrush, of a bird nesting in traffic lights in Glasgow.

    Remarkably, the competition has age based categories for under 10s,11-14 year olds, and 15-17 year olds. The work in these categories is staggering, in composition and technique. They give most of the general entrants a run for their money. And, as the Urban and Garden Wildlife category proves, you don't need to be in the Arctic or camped in the desert to get a good shot.

    The best bit about the exhibition as a whole is that it’s a competition, so the exhibited photos are ranked from winner, to highly commended in each category. Go with a friend – no one ever agrees with the judges and it leads to heated discussions in whispered tones.

    The only gripe Arts Hub has is the manner in which the images were displayed. Set in what look like illuminated slide boxes on the wall, the photos are too close together and too small, and the writing on the captions is illegible for anyone not blessed with the vision of a hawk. Jostling to get up close with the three deep crowd reduces some of the enjoyment, and means that these photographs of other-worldly creatures or places lose some of their exotic appeal. You couldn’t be anywhere other than the Natural History Museum on a Sunday afternoon with these kinds of hordes.

    The Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition runs at the Natural History Museum in London until 27 April 2008.

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    'There was another moment in my life, which happened some time ago and I really think I'm right, but it's still not there. It's like the whole idea of how art's going to look in the next century. How are things going to develop? And I honestly strongly believe that art is going to the point where the objects will be removed – there will be no objects: no paintings, no sculptures, no instalations, whatever. There will just be this artist directly translating energy through the public, with no object in between, and that's it. Object's won't be necessary any more; but to get to that point, the public has to be prepared as well as the artist. And one of the reasons for these transistory objectsis is to prepare the public to be able to receive it, so it can really be developed in the same way as artists, because artists go through the process of change, but most of the time the public doesn't.'

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