CultureCalling: Wildlife Photographer of the Year

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year, M Shed

18 January 2017 | Hudi Charin
Until March, Bristol’s M-Shed will be showing the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. We take a look at what’s being displayed in the 52nd year of the competition.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year showcases the work of pioneering photographers capturing the world’s most astonishing natural wonders. Originally the competition was limited to 3 categories. Now the show has expanded to 16 classifications, ranging from fungi to urban.

The competition is hosted in the M Shed, a renovated transit shed sitting on the Bristol waterfront surrounded by heavy cranes and boats. A photography exhibition feels a world away from this industrial setting. The photos forge a sense of calm, viewers absorbed by the images, drawn into each captured moment. Many of the photos in the exhibition appear quite spontaneous, as if a simple click of a shutter. Yet, accompanying plaques explain the time required to produce each work – a fascinating insight. Nayan Khanolker, for instance, waited 4 months before his intended subject—a notoriously reclusive leopard—walked in front of his camera.

® Imre Poty / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The 2017 iteration of Wildlife Photographer of the Year questions our relationship with our surroundings and our impact on the wildlife with which we share this planet – particularly thought-provoking in the M Shed’s setting. The competitions ‘urban’ category is especially worth a look. Whilst these settings are the most familiar to us, the images lead us to look at our cities in a new light. Juan Jesus Gonzalez Ahanuda’s Refinery Refuge seems to be a typical photo of an oil refinery. Yet look again and you notice the nesting storks silhouetted against the sky. 

The collection is surprising, moving, poignant, informative and often quite humorous. The diversity on show makes it ideal for all ages. Young children will love spotting their favourite animals, enjoy guessing what is being shown in the ‘details’ category, and shiver at the more gruesome pictures on display. Older visitors can enjoy the detail of each photograph.

® Willem Kruger / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Over the years, the competition has become beloved. Some visitors clearly research the photographs before visiting, quickly offering their own takes on the reviews they had read. It is that type of exhibition: enthralling, educational, whilst also subjective. In a time where technology increasingly allows us to create highly edited images on our phones and laptops, these photographs remind us what nature’s wonders can deliver unaided. Fortunato Gatto’s After the Storm stunningly contrasts the same landscape in the first few seconds of dawn with the aftermath of a storm. Multiple different colours and textures explode in a single shot, all achieved naturally by juxtaposing the two moments in time.

This exhibition is very much worth seeing whilst it is here. It invites us to reconsider the world around us and the wildlife we are lucky to share it with. And, of course, these photographs are simply, stunningly beautiful. No prior knowledge is needed, the images’ communication is universal.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. The Exhibition is on display at the M Shed until 5 March. For further details, see online.

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