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Review: Wildlife Photographers of the Year

Phoebe Mackie reviews The Wildlife Photographer of the Year that is being exhibited at Bristol M Shed.

By Phoebe Mackie, Third Year English

In its fifty eighth year of running, The Wildlife Photographer of the Year has once again come to M Shed in Bristol. The 100 photographs are on loan from the Natural History Museum in London and, as a born and bred Londoner, the Natural History Museum was a regular haunt of mine growing up.

In comparison to the Natural History Museum’s exhibition of dim lighting and blown-up images spread over several rooms, M Shed went for a much more minimalist approach. The exhibition took place in only one long, clean white room which gave space for the beauty of the photographs to shine. Additionally, this lower budget exhibition allows M Shed to sell adult tickets for £7, in comparison with the Natural History Museums' £17.

The most prestigious exhibition in its field now reaches over 90 countries around the world and the images truly reflect that diversity. There is an abundance of skill shown through these photographs, but perhaps the most effective and eye-catching is their use of humour. Animals' expressions caught in a moment of hysterical panic as predators go in for the kill catch us between a laugh and a sigh. Or, an animal captured in a strangely human-like pose, the polar bear looking out of the window of an abandoned house, its paws gently resting on the windowsill and a curiously knowing expression on its face, as just one example.

Courtesy of Unsplash, Federico Dio Dio

We are surrounded by a culture of growing awareness about the issue of climate change, which is increasingly darker as the urgency grows. Marches, protests and documentaries call our attention to strangled turtles by plastic can wraps, floating plastic islands and homeless, orphaned baby monkeys. Professor Steve West, Vice Chancellor of UWE Bristol, discussing the Wildlife Photographers of the Year exhibition, notes that “This thought-provoking and prestigious exhibition is more important than ever, as it shines a light on our precious natural world, and the steps we must urgently take to protect it”.

However, the photos do not only draw attention to the fragility of the natural world but celebrate it by humanising and humourising it. The photographers' ability to find the playful fun in nature gives a fresh and unusual perspective of the natural world. This exhibition is predominantly a celebration of what we still have, rather than what we have lost by reckless human intervention. In doing so, it evokes gratitude towards our stunning planet, rather than guilt at how we have destroyed it.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition runs at M Shed until the 29th May.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Unsplash, Diana Parkhouse

Have you visited M Shed's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition this year?