Paid collaboration with National Museum Cardiff
The Natural History Museum’s acclaimed Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition has returned to National Museum Cardiff this summer – and it’s an absolutely stunning, inspiring and thought-provoking collection of images that is truly worth visiting.
My 10 year old son and I attended at the weekend and were left in awe at the 100 photographs showcasing our planet’s extraordinary diversity and the fragility of the natural world.
The photos on display were selected from more than 49,000 entries from around the world, chosen for their creativity, artistry and technical complexity by a judging panel of industry-recognised professionals.
The images are incredible enough in their own right, but because the gallery walls and floors are all black, and the photos are backlit, they stand out even more.
We spent more than an hour exploring the gallery. There isn’t a single photograph that doesn’t have the wow factor – the crispness and clarity of the photos, the different perspectives, the raw moments caught on film. Everything is so impressive.
The accompanying captions (which are provided in both Welsh and English) are fascinating to read as you learn more about the wildlife and how the image was taken. Those interested in photography will appreciate the technical specifications of the camera, lenses and other equipment used being included in the captions.
Younger visitors can make use of a camera challenge, which includes a cardboard frame you can use to pretend to take your own photos, plus an accompanying challenge sheet with ideas such as looking for unusual patterns, horns or tusks, a colourful animal or bird etc. That said, some of the images show nature at its most brutal so do exercise caution with very young or sensitive children.
The start of the exhibition is filled with colourful and detailed images that made us appreciate the incredible natural world around us. There are so many animals, birds, insects and marine life photographed that we had not before come across, or knew little about, captured in such detail. You feel privy to moments of their lives that you don’t usually see.
But as we continued our journey around, it becomes more emotional as the photos show the impact of global warming, poaching, over-fishing and animals being kept in captivity and exploited.
In Oceans: The Bigger Picture category, we found Michael Watson’s image of a grey seal tangled in fishing rope, taken while he waited for specialists to help, particularly poignant. The pain and emotion in the seal’s face is so harrowing. Meanwhile David Doubilet returns to find that the vibrant coral he photographed nine years earlier is now dead. The accompanying caption to this clever before and after shot states that climate change means coral are likely to “become records of a vanished world”.
The images in the Behaviour category offer rarely-seen glimpses into the lives of their subjects. The blood-splattered mouth of a lioness as she looks up from feasting on her prey; a golden tree snake squeezing the life out of a red-spotted tokay gecko; two rival fan-throated lizards fighting over territory – it’s very rare that these moments are witnessed, never mind caught on camera in such detail.
A lot of hard work has gone into these photos with some of the captions telling us that they are the results of months, even years, of observations and learning to understand a species in order to know when the perfect moment to photograph will arise.
Particularly impressive is the collection of images from young photographers, with the winners and highly commended photographs from those 10 years and under, 11-14 years and 15-17 years on display. Lasse Kurkela’s high flying jay was the overall Young Photographer winner; taken from the ground looking up, we see snow covered trees pointing towards the tiny Siberian jay, flying to the top of a spruce tree to stash its food.
I also found the photojournalism section very humbling and Brent Stirton’s profile of a rehabilitation centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo caring for chimpanzees orphaned by the bushmeat trade is a very worthy winner in this category. The horrors of what these chimpanzees go through contrasts with the care and love shown by the volunteers at the centre, many of whom are survivors of military conflict themselves.
After visiting Wildlife Photographer of the Year, I’m sure lots of people would be inspired to pick up a camera and capture the world around them. I know we certainly were. But more than that, it will leave you feeling more informed about the injustices facing our planet and its wildlife, and wanting to do a little more to help.
See more from the exhibition in my Reel on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram account.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at National Museum Cardiff runs until 29 August 2022. Admission costs £10 for adults, £7 for concessions, free to under 16s and Amgueddfa Cymru members.
For more information, visit the website here. Book in advance online or via the QR codes at the museum when you arrive (subject to availability).
On Thursday 4 August, National Museum Cardiff will be open until 9pm as part of its ‘Extra Time’ scheme. You can visit Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition until 8pm.
Saturday 13-Sunday 14 August will see Natural World At Home, the latest in National Museum Wales’ award-winning Museum Sleepover series. Particpants will experience a fun-filled night at the Museum from your own home, including setting up camp, making their own binoculars, going behind the scenes at the Museum stores to discover where insects, marine life, and endangered species are hiding, joining in a live video call to a South African safari to spot some elephants, as well as preparing specially-themed snacks, plus lots more.
Priced at £5 plus booking fees per household, the event is suitable for children aged 4-12 and their families. More information on the website here.