Everyone may own a camera, but not everyone is an artist. The modern age is suffering from sensory overload and over-exposure to images. With technology making it easy for the average person to create pretty pictures, it is becoming harder for the photographer’s genius to shine out. And only the very best do.
The Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition needs no long-winded introduction. Youngsters and adults from all over the world have the chance to show off what is outstanding skill – almost never betraying their age – creativity and perseverance. There are winners for each age bracket between eleven to eighteen years old, an overall Young Wildlife Photographer winner – this year Mateusz Piesiak from Poland who fell into the 15-17 years age category – as well as an overall adult winner. This year the judges gave that accolade to Daniel Beltra for his Still Life in Oil.
The rest of exhibition celebrates more work organised thematically under headings such as Nature in Black and White, Urban Wildlife, Creative Visions (one of the more spectacular sections) and Underwater Worlds. Besides the winners in each age category and the overall winner, there are specialist awards such as the Wildlife Photojournalist Award that is given for a group of six pictures “depicting a memorable story”. 2011’s winner is also the winner of the overall award, Daniel Beltra from Spain, who captured the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana and surrounding States.
Reading the stories behind the love and labour gone into achieving the shots (building relationships with foxes over a period of months, observing silk moths for years and chartering helicopters) one marvels at the abandoned passion and sheer organisation of the photographers, the many of which are teenagers. One also wonders at how lucky these artists are to have traveled to the ends of the earth: islands off Australia, volcanoes in far-flung Russia, Inner Mongolia and the Arctic Circle. It is also comforting and encouraging seeing such reverence for wildlife and nature. There must have been utter union between man and nature to create these photos: food for thought for the powers that be.
The Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition needs to be seen not read about. Thanks to the Internet, visitors can save their favourites using the barcode of on their ticket and collect them at home later. The exhibitions runs until 11 March at the Natural History Museum.