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Natural History Museum touring exhibition: Wildlife Photographer of the Year,Natural History Museum touring exhibition: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, at The Base, Greenham, until Sunday, March 26. Review by LIN WILKINSON
As well as celebrating the spectacular beauty and diversity of the natural world, the effects of climate change also underpin the themes and concerns of many of the international photographers showing in the ever-popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at The Base gallery at Greenham.
Dimitry Kokh shows two photographs of polar bears who have taken over an abandoned Russian island settlement, scavenging for food. In one, a bear peers through a hut window, paws on sill. It’s a beautifully balanced image, using the faded blue and yellow of window and hut; a photo that can be enjoyed on a formal and emotional level.
In a field of underwater kelp, Scott Portelli comes face to face with an inquisitive Australian sea lion. Zhigang Li has set the hefty yellow stems of the noble rhubarb against gloomy mountains and hanging cloud.
Two UK photographers have constructed abstract images, David Maitland using a macro lens to expose the fluorescent colours and shapes of a leaf, Alex Mustard taking bootlace seaweed as the starting point for a vertical composition. Lorenzo Shoubridge (Italy) captures a hungry dormouse skewed in mid-air, trying to catch a moth.
The photojournalism section includes images that show relationships between humans and animals. Douglas Gimesy positions an animal carer working on her laptop beside a sleeping, orphaned wombat.
Brent Stirton (South Africa) has photographed the final moments of a rescued mountain gorilla, who lies dying, cradled in the loving arms of her life-long carer. It’s a quiet, deeply affecting image.
Charlie Hamilton James’s photograph of a ranger removing a snare from a wildebeest takes the shapes and movement of man and animal to create a memorable image.
Brandon Guell (Costa Rica/USA) shows tiny, green gliding frogs laying eggs on palm fronds, in a very pleasing composition of verticals and vibrant colour.
Deft use of colour and form in the photo of a flame bowerbird’s mating display, the red head with its shining eye curving around the yellow and black wings.
Laurent Ballesta (France) claimed the Portfolio Award for his striking panel of the sea life and natural structures beneath the waters of Antarctica; powerfully composed photographs in vibrant, metallic colour.
Anand Nambiar (India) depicts a hunting snow leopard chasing Himalayan ibex towards a cliff, as much a pattern in restricted colour as a representational image. A well-caught, minimal shot by José Fragozo (Portugal) shows the tail end of a giraffe as it disappears behind concrete blocks; the natural world forced ever closer to human infrastructure.
In a striking wide-angle image, shot in brilliant light, Alessandro Gruzza (Italy) has maximised the foreground, cushion plants in the Andean peat wetlands leading the eye to a distant snow-capped volcanic cone.
The Young Photographers’ winner (11-14 years category) is Ismael Dominguez Gutierrez (Spain), who photographed stunted, bare trees, one with a sole perching osprey, emerging from a lifting Andalusian fog, to create a mysterious black and white image. Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn (Thailand) shows a masterly abstract composition in soft pink, blue and grey. Two tiny fish about to disappear into the baleen plates of a whale are the only recognisable living elements.
A pleasing aerial shot by Paul Mckenzie (Ireland/Hong Kong) comprises a brown-rimmed circle of green within a dotted expanse of blue.
However, the blue area is Kenya’s mudflats, now under water because of climate change, where the world’s largest population of flamingos nest.
It exemplifies the moral question photographers encounter in many situations; the discomfort of making pictorial currency from desperate situations.
Open Wed-Sun 10am-5pm, last entry 4pm. Tickets £9.75, concessions