Wild and wonderful: The relationship between man and beast

A wildlife photography exhibition forces the observer to examine the relationship between man and animal.

Wildlife photography exhibition (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wildlife photography exhibition
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While many of us often search for new intellectual and emotional frontiers and like to be challenged or, at the very least, have our interest piqued by some work of art, at the end of the day there is something to be said for kitsch. Much of the commercial musical output of the 1980s, alone, is testimony to that.
So when one hears there’s a wildlife photography exhibition in the offering, they could be forgiven for expecting much of the same – albeit visually arresting – shots of animals of various shapes, sizes and species, caught doing their thing in the midst of Mother Nature.
Then again, the “Global Nature, Local Nature” photography exhibition, which opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv on May 9, puts that idea well and truly to bed. The show, which takes place in collaboration with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israeli Nature Photography Association, is divided into two parts. The display on the ground floor of the museum’s Postal History and Philately building, which is devoted to locally captured images, is a truly stunning eye- and heart-catching experience.
One of the first works to meet the visitor’s eye is Alex Geifman’s delightful shot of a couple of young foxes having some fun on a tree in the Ben-Shemen Forest. It is an appropriate introduction to the quality and the spirit of the exhibition. Curator Moran Shoub clearly knows her craft – she served in the same role for the hugely popular “Local Testimony” press photography exhibition at the same institution this year and last year – and her placement of the works is patently designed to entice and entertain, but also to get us to think.
The photographs are allocated to a range of categories, including portraits of animals and birds, underwater shows, conflict between human beings and animals, reptiles and amphibians, animals under controlled conditions and nocturnal life. Budding snappers also have a place in the show, and there are some impressive contributions from a bunch of teenagers, with the other areas covered including animal humor, ongoing projects and video works.
If anyone can walk past Geifman’s large print without smiling – not to say chuckling out loud – they will have to be either highly insensitive or more than a little bewitched and bothered with other matters. It was voted Photograph of the Year, and it is not difficult to see why jurors came to that logical conclusion.
One of the most endearing features of the Israeli section of the international exhibition is the fact that Shoub got the artists to pen a few words about the experience and process of capturing their image. “I think it adds a personal touch to the whole exhibition,” she explains, “and helps visitors appreciate the photographs and understand what went into capturing them.”
In the accompanying text, Geifman relates that he monitored a family of foxes in the Ben-Shemen Forest last summer. He was careful to maintain a respectful and healthy distance from the creatures, and took the winning shot from his car in the forest. “Near Moshav Gimzo I noted a couple of fox cubs, aged four or five months, climbing on a tree as evening fell.” The waning light, indeed, adds an enchanting quality to the frame. “It was the first time I had seen two cubs climbing together, in play. Prior to that I had become used to seeing them climb individually.”
This time Geifman’s luck was definitely in. “One was swinging on a branch, trying not to fall. I excitedly took a few photographs from my car, which served as my hideout. After that the cub fell to the ground, but it was not hurt.”
Just around the corner from Geifman’s foxy shot there is a fetching picture of unlikely confluence, in terms of both species and sheer size. The picture shows a female camel caught looking in the director of photographer Eran Hyams, against a totally expected Negev desert backdrop. The glaringly incongruous element of the work is the diminutive figure of a young gazelle, in exactly the same position as the camel. It is a surprising, comical and cute image.
“This is a female camel. We would not have accepted a picture of a male camel, because it is not a wild animal. The female is,” notes Shoub. “The gazelle was very young and its mother had gone off to graze somewhere. The camel passed by and the fawn thought she was his mother and followed her around all day. A Bedouin shepherd called the local Israel Nature and Parks Authority ranger to sort it out.”
Hyams was the INPA officer in question. “The close proximity of the flock of sheep and the naiveté of the fawn made it think that the camel was its mother,” he writes. “It came out of its hiding place and began following the camel everywhere it went, adopting it for a while as its mother, until it returned to its real mother.” The shot won Hyams second place in the Conflict Between Human Beings and Animals category.
The texts that go with the photographs also include technical details, such as camera and lens type, shutter speed and aperture, and film sensitivity, which camera aficionados should appreciate.
Shoub, her fellow local jurors and their foreign counterparts certainly had their work cut out for them in the run-up to the second annual Global Nature, Local Nature exhibition, the international section of which has been on a global circuit for past year. It was initiated by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Worldwide, and is taking place for the 49th time. All told, the 100 exhibits on show at the Eretz Israel Museum were culled from over 43,000 photographs submitted by wildlife photographers from all over the world.
There are stunning images in the show, some of which are clearly designed to get us to think green. One shot shows an animal lying dead, presumably run down, by the side of a road in the Negev. It is a coldly dramatic shot, as is the picture of a crane ensnared in netting placed to protect the occupants of the fish-breeding pools at Kibbutz Ma’ayan Zvi near Zichron Ya’acov. “These are more examples of the conflict between man and animals,” says Shoub. “We have to address the ecological impact of the way we live, too.”
Elsewhere on the ground floor there are highly colorful shots of butterflies by Alon Meir, and some alluring images of feathered friends by Eyal Bartov and Duby Kalay. The latter’s wonderful frame of a bunch of birds enjoying the refreshing ambiance of an irrigation pipe-fed puddle at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh in the Negev placed first in the Ongoing Photographic Project category.
The international show one floor down is something of a disappointment. While the individual pictures are highly impressive, and some qualify as simply stunning, the exhibition format leaves something to be desired. Apparently the traveling- show bosses decreed that all the prints should be uniform in size, and positioned at equal distances from each other. Visitors will therefore be required to make a bit more of an effort to appreciate the wonderful contributions in the Global Nature part of the double-header.
The exhibition closes on August 25.
Further information can be obtained from the museum, and from the museum and the exhibition websites: (03) 641-5244; www.eretzmuseum.org.il; www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com; and www.tmunateva.co.il