Photographic memories

Jessica Harris takes a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition.

Go once, go twice! The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is packed with stunning photographs of wildlife from across the globe – images which stop you in your tracks, and make you stand and stare.

It is also full of insight into animal life, and tells the tale of how each photographer got their shot. Techies amongst us will relish the details of cameras and lenses used.

Some photographs capture the behaviours of animals – ibex leaping over an alpine gorge, a proboscis monkey apparently deep in meditation. Others catch their gaze full on. A northern chamois (a type of goat-antelope) peers over a rock just as the camera clicks. A douc monkey (found only in Indochina) glances over its shoulder into the lens.

Others show the symbiosis between species. Sam Sloss, winner of the 11-14 age group, has photographed a clownfish with a parasitic louse inside its mouth. The clownfish itself cleans anemones it lives in by eating algae and other food leftovers on them.

Many of the photographers have spent hours, if not weeks and months, capturing these images. Some trekked to remote spots: Sergey Gorshkov, overall winner of this year’s exhibition, photographed the beautiful, but rare, Siberian tiger, scent-marking a gnarled fir tree in the Russian Far East. Others found their shots in urban environments – Vidyun Hebbar’s striking picture of a spider was taken by a roadside.

Everyone of these images is a winner – a demonstration of empathy, skill and patience. Those taken by young people, in particular, are a spectacular achievement.

The exhibition is a homage to our stunning world, and to its diversity. It ends with a section on how wild animals are used and abused by the human species. As we allow them to be hunted, and their environments destroyed, this is a reminder of the need to act before more species disappear.

This is the first time Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery has hosted the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in its entirety. Let’s hope this becomes part of its annual calendar.

The exhibition runs at the Birmingham Museum & Arts Gallery to 7th February 2021.

Pics – Arshdeep Singh (this page), Sergey Gorshkov (front).