Every year since 1965, members of London’s Natural History Museum compile thousands of images caught in nature to crown the world’s “Wildlife Photographer of the Year.” The breathtaking gallery, narrowed down to 100 selected images in as many offshoot categories, features works from photographers all over the globe, giving its citizens a look at unknown and unfamiliar lands thousands of miles away. Now, Houstonians can take a break from our version of wildlife in action—things like flying cockroaches or opossums sneakily crossing the street—to see this one-of-a-kind exhibition at Houston Museum of Natural Science.
According to Kelly Russo, the museum’s director of online media, more than 42,000 images were submitted from professional and amateur photographers from all over the world focusing on wild places and the wild things living inside them. “It could be in your backyard or down the street or in rare places around the earth,” she notes.
Over the years, the main point has been to shine a light on nature, but with 2015 being the warmest year in recorded history, the focus has widened a bit. “The goal has shifted a little now to include nature and conservation issues. Now some of the categories include landscapes and abstracts and photojournalism stories that bring attention to issues faced by wildlife and habitat,” Russo explains.
The growing concern of global warming is apparent in the images. This year’s winner, taken by Canadian photographer Don Gutoski, shows a red fox devouring the pelt of an arctic fox among a blanket of snow in Wapusk National Park. Red foxes are having to spread out more to find food and now coming in contact with their cousins and hunting their own kind. The striking image shows the juxtaposition of nature at its finest and the sadness about the rising temperatures that cause species that don’t interact to interact. “It’s nature, manmade,” Russo adds.
The exhibition also features winners for images taken from the sky and from underwater; of species like amphibians and birds; and from our very own jungle, the city—the winning shot featuring the shadow of a fox blasted against a brick wall in urban Surrey, England.
Russo agrees that with the rise of instant connectivity and social media, photographers have new ways to not only get their work noticed, but also inspire amateur photographers and adventurers alike to get out and see the nature around them. “I think social media has opened up a lot of people to seeing these things and places. You’ll have professional photographers post really amazing images from state parks or national parks or rare places and that encourages people to want to go see these places in person.”
Opens Jan 29. Mon–Sun, 9–5. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. 713-639-4629. hmns.org