A stark and shocking image of a black rhinoceros, taken down by gunshots, its horn brutally carved off by poachers, has a place of honour in the Royal B.C. Museum’s 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit.
From a composition and lighting standpoint the image is beautiful, even if photographer Brent Stirton’s subject matter makes one’s soul cry for the wastefulness and cruelty of this practice in South Africa.
But showing the good and bad of mankind’s interaction with and viewing of wildlife is what this competition, in its 53rd year organized by the Natural History Museum in London, is all about.
“This year there’s a very strong conservation theme,” said Angela Williams, deputy CEO of the RBCM, which has the collection on loan from London. “You think about the impact that humans have on nature and these images really bring this to the forefront.”
Not all of the images are as stark as Stirton’s grand title-winning photo, entitled Memorial to a Species. There are plenty of life-affirming shots, depicting animals in everyday situations, including play.
The Good Life, which earned Daniël Nelson of The Netherlands the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand title, inspires a grin as it shows a western lowland gorilla relaxing with a breadfruit in a Congo forest. As jury chair Lewis Blackwell notes, “The photo takes us right into the life of the young gorilla called Caco and makes us curious to understand his day.”
Williams said the RBCM and patrons are excited for its return after a one-year hiatus – the mammoth exhibition took up the special exhibition space last winter.
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The themes of the 2017 competition and the images on display reflect the conservation and climate change work being done on a regular basis by RBCM curators and scientists, she added.
For the past three years or so, a travelling exhibition on species at risk has seen almost all areas of the province. Williams said that material is now on the museum’s online learning portal, where “people can find out a little bit more about British Columbia, our environment, the impact that we’re having on our environment and some of the species in our own backyard that are at risk.”
In total, 100 winners and finalists in a variety of categories, including youth divisions, are on display at the museum now through April 2. It’s the sixth time the RBCM has welcomed the exhibit.
For more information and museum hours, visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca or call 250-356-7226.