(c) Me, bit blurry oops
I do enjoy a good late night exhibition and the Natural History Museum does theirs really well. There is live music, nice lighting, wine and nibbles – catching up with friends under a giant dinosaur skeleton makes for a really lovely atmosphere. So on Friday 28 January, The Chef, Pippalippa and assorted buddies went along to see the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010.
The problem with planning to see the exhibition on a Friday night is that half of London appears to have had the same idea so it’s pretty packed. But either you can slow-walk with the crowds or dip in and out of it as you choose. I’d also suggest if you’ve had a crappy day, you should have a glass of wine first so you go in all relaxed – we pootled around in 45 minutes which is far too little considering how huge the exhibition is, and only because I’d been manic all day and was dying to get away from the crowds for my Friday evening glass of vino.
© Jochen Schlenker / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
But the exhibition, as with every year I’ve seen it, didn’t disappoint. I’ve selected only a few photographs that I loved, but there’s so many more that were fantastic. I didn’t want to include the winner so you have a nice surprise, but suffice to say it’s incredible – a beautifully technical photo with a million things going on but also abstract and arty and a snapshot example of how clever and interesting nature can be. In fact, most of the photos show you how so much in our world – art and design – comes from nature. So it’s inspiring for loads of different reasons.
One thing I love about the photos is the story behind them and how dedicated the photographers are. They develop an interest in a certain type of lesser spotted woodpecker, or polar bear, or plant, or topical news issue, learn all about it, find the perfect spot, and then wait hours and hours, often days and often in crappy conditions, to get the perfect shot. Although one year I’d really love to see “this photo was taken by Sasha, who accidentally sat on her camera while camping“.
© Bence Máté / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
One particular focus this year was environmental damage and damage caused by humans – there were particularly harrowing photographs of a bear being sucked for it’s bile and an elephant slowly dying having been shot from a poison bullet by villagers whose territory it had mistakenly encroached. Or this shark below – the blood tear only seen after the photo was taken. The photos make it clear – nature is beautiful, perfect, clever, but also vulnerable, and should be respected and protected as such. We’re the strong ones, and it’s a constant battle that nature has no chance but to lose. And we even mess with lovely turtles (although don’t be sad – the one below got away).
© Brian Skerry / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
© Jordi Chias Pujol / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010
Late night events at museums are brilliant – the British Museum, Portrait Gallery, V&A, Design Museum and Science Museum all do interesting events (a happiness event at the Science Museum for example, or the Giles Deacon talk at the Desgin Museum, or Thursday’s Book of the Dead event at the British Museum). This is great for busy Londoners who actually have time to go and see them as they fit round our busy working lives. But my final, very non-cultured, point is that I wish they’d serve nicer wine. Pretty please. Oh and it really is packed so you’re unlikely to get a table later on.
Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine. It runs until 11 March 2011.