So I was pleased when an email from Brighton Museum arrived, asking if we’d like to come and see the photographs right there. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is co-owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide, and it turns out the images from the 2014 competition are on loan to our local domed wonder until September 6th.
Stupidly, I didn’t think about how this would be displayed at the museum, and talked up the size and ‘al fresco’ nature of the show to my children. There was a bit of argy bargy about this as we entered the block wood-floored, panelled room on the museum’s second floor, where the pictures from this year’s competition – now in its 50th year – are hung, perfectly lit but small, at eye level across three rooms.
We went with some friends and our four boys (aged three to six) admittedly bounced off the walls and each other, and yes, did a bit of tearing around the place…
But all four were very taken with the small edit of stuffed animals from the Booth Museum on one side of the middle room. Here there were treasures we’ve not seen before when we’ve visited the Booth – a couple of beautiful, perfectly preserved turtles, a pelican, a gorilla, and a huge hairy anteater. There was a kind lady manning all this, who had skulls and other bits and pieces that people could touch.
The kids were also naturally drawn to a screen in the far room, which showed the images of those who have won the prize in previous years. I guess it says a lot of about where we are today that they found older images more intriguing than those around them, just by virtue of them being on a screen. But they also all took part in a little activity where they could draw a picture of their favourite animal on a piece of paper and hang it on a display, also in the far room.
I’m heartened to report as well, that despite what I say above, when I took each of mine off one at a time, both were totally arrested by what they saw. They looked – really looked – at the images, and listened to the descriptions I read out. They’re really into animals, an interest we’ve nurtured this from a very early age, with animal encyclopaedias thrifted from second hand bookshops or charity shops.
Both loved the tiny fox with huge ears, the shark, scorpion and iguana. But most of all, they loved, loved, loved the winning image, ‘The Last Great Picture‘, by American photographer Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols, which depicts the Vumbi pride of lions in the Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
This is of five female lions and their cubs, lying on a rock outcrop. Nichols has used infrared to cut through the dust of the landscape and create an image ‘almost primal or biblical’. Apparently the lionesses were used to him as he’d been following them for six months.
They had just seen off two male lions and were calm and relaxed. But sadly the write-up of the image says ‘Nick got to know and love the Vumbi pride. A few months later, he heard they had ventured outside the park and three females had been killed.’
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is itself within a great museum, full of all kinds of wonder – from design classics, to relics from ancient Egypt, to a bed made of silver, to water puppets from Asia, to head-spinning pop art. I would recommend you go, but that if you have more than one child (and especially if they’re younger than say eight, you split up and one does the rest of the museum while the other does the photographs – and then switch. Dress it up as special one-on-one time with your child – and really relish it.
There’s enough to see at Brighton Museum that you can go for an hour and be back the next week to see something completely different. So I think I’ll end this post with what I said about Seaford Museum a few days back: I do love to combine a beach with museum time. Oh and also, London, who needs it – especially when one of the exhibitions we’re used to seeing up there rolls right into our neighbourhood?
Drive: 16 mins
Train: 13-18 mins, roughly five trains an hour; 15 min walk from Brighton station
Address: Royal Pavilion Gardens, BN1 1EE
Tel no.: 03000 290 900
Open: Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm. Closed Mon (except Bank Hols)
Price: Adults, £3; Children, free.
Disclosure: The Brighton Museums marketing manager contacted me about coming to see the exhibition – and offered me four free adult tickets to do so. I gratefully accepted and we all loved the show. No other compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or accepted for the writing of this post.
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