The Natural History Museum (NHM) of London and the Victoria Memorial Hall of Kolkata, aided by the British Council, came together to engage youngsters from the city in identifying the local flora and fauna and the biodiversity in the backyard of their homes.
An extended wildlife photography workshop involving prominent names from the fields of photography and wildlife mentored 33 students from schools and colleges in Kolkata in June.
The outcome is an exhibition of their photographs titled “Young Minds for a Compassionate World”, which opens at Victoria on Thursday. The exhibition is part of an ongoing programme named India/UK Together, a Season of Culture.
Altogether, 115 photographs, resulting from the workshops, will be on display. The collection includes 15 entries from the mentors/ alumni of the NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
The project aims to use nature and wildlife photography to strengthen, advocate and celebrate the voice of young people by giving them a global platform to share their experiences of the natural world. It also equips them to use photography to express their voices, concerns and aspirations.
The 33 students who participated in the six-day workshop on photography and conservation were aged 15 to 22. They worked with alumni from the Natural History Museum’s iconic Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, conservationists and filmmakers. They engaged in dialogue on nature conservation, ecology, climate change, and how these issues affect their communities and how to effect change.
The programme included indoor and outdoor sessions at Victoria, Indian Botanic Garden and Eco Park, ranging from nature observation skills to fieldcraft, storytelling to the basics of wildlife photography and photography editing skills for conservation purposes.
Gemma Ward, manager of the Wildlife Photography of the Year competition, run by the NHM, said: “We managed to achieve more than what we had set out for. The response to the programme, which is the first conducted by NHM outside London, was amazing.”
Ward, manager of the Wildlife Photography of the Year competition, said the students loved the field days. “And I could see how they became aware of nature right outside their doorstep,” she said.
Asked what she thought about the photo g raphs taken by the students, Ward said: “The compositions are outstanding.” Debanjan Chakrabarti, director, British Council, East, mentioned the role of mentors and how they influenced the young minds.
“I remember a student saying of their mentor, ‘Its like meeting the Tendulkar of photography’,” said Chakrabarti.
Among the mentors were Ripan Biswas from Cooch Behar, who is the only Indian wildlife photographer to have won NHM’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award twice; Green Oscar winner Ashwika Kapur; Shekhar Dattatri, wildlife conservation filmmaker from Chennai; nature photographer Nayan Khanolker from Mumbai; and wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee.
Victoria curator Jayanta Sengupta said the students who attended the workshop were from a diverse background. While some had access to sophisticated gadgets like telephoto lens and DSLRs, others were taking photographs with their mobile cameras. “There were students from Bengali-medium schools, Future Hope, Ramakrishna Mission as well as Modern High School and St Xavier’s College. And they bonded over the workshop and became fast friends, too,” said Sengupta.
The exhibition opens on Thursday with a projection mapping of wildlife films and photography at Victoria.
The exhibits will be on display for two months in the central hall of the marble memorial.