Default 17: Investigation on the extreme land
Gagliano del Capo (LE, Italy), 19-25 June
Deadline to apply: 26th February
Application Fee: 15 Euros


RAMDOM ASSOCIATION is calling for research-based artists to take part in a 7-day group investigation aimed at ideas related to extreme lands and remote areas. Situated at the southern tip of east Italy on the Mediterranean, Gagliano del Capo poses as an ideal location for participants of the DEFAULT 17 Residency to contribute to an investigation of the extreme land. The project will investigate geographic dislocation as a socio-anthropological characteristic embedded in extreme territories. It confronts challenges, particularly relating to climate and environmental conditions, as a means to explore diverse interpretations of human and natural landscapes. 

During working days participants will develop their research approach in intensive workshops and seminar sessions. They will expand their network and exchange know-how with the support of the programme curators, external guests and lecturers. 

Ramdom will work with each participant for the potential development and realization of further proposals and projects. Particular attention will be given to applicants who intend to locate the discourse on the extreme land within a broader context across disciplines and practices. 

More info:


wear this there: a luz ideal.

cafe a luz ideal / sfgirlbybay

lisbon has long been on the bucket list, and our hearts only grow fonder for it as we stumble across more and more design gems. coffee shop a luz ideal is no different, and is immediately going on our must hit places when we do finally make it there. its owner teresa, and her architect husband are responsible for this adorable spot. its dreamy tiles remind us of old world lisbon, while the cheeky art brings us back to the now. stop in for a cup of coffee, and some sweet treats in our transitional winter to spring (more just trying to summon spring) wear this there. in case you were wondering what a luz ideal means, as i was, it directly translates to the ideal light — nothing seems more fitting for a morning spent here with our read this there the power of habit.

~ michaela d’artois, vérité published.

cafe a luz ideal in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

wear this there: cafe a luz ideal. / sfgirlbybay

wear this there: pixie market teddy button faux fur coat; GanniBrown Dungarees from need supply; Clare V. Twill Foldover Clutch from anthropologie; need supply Vayarta flats in Bronze Metallic; need supply Kathleen Whitaker Rock Ring in Pyrite Quartz; Charlotte Lebeck Jade Earring from club moncaco; read this there the power of habit by charles duhigg; block shop kochi scarf; and anthropologie Coffee Shop Tee in rose.

wear this there featuring cafe a luz ideal. / sfgirlbybay

inspiring interior of cafe a luz ideal in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

pastel decor inside a luz ideal in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

a luz ideal coffee shop in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

patterned tile floors, mint chairs and pink tables at cafe a luz ideal. / sfgirlbybay

what to wear to cafe a luz ideal. / sfgirlbybay

pink drinks at cafe a luz ideal in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

war is over poster at cafe a luz ideal in lisbon. / sfgirlbybay

• photography by a luz ideal; little tiny pieces of me; and little upside down cake

The sound of the Internet of Things (and why it matters for brands)

Internet of Things
Image courtesy of DrAfter123,

The Internet of Things is real, writes Roscoe Williamson. It has arrived. It’s disrupting businesses, changing governments and revolutionising the way we interact with the world.

In the next five years, Business Insider estimates that brands are going to spend around $5 trillion on the Internet of Things. For a third year in a row, the subject has dominated CES, the global consumer technology trade show. And the leading digital living research company, Parks Associates, predicts that there will be almost 55 million smart home devices in our homes by 2020.

All very good, I hear you say. I’m sure we will all welcome a degree of helpful automation into our personal and work lives, but what might this all sound like, and why is it important for brands to start thinking about this now?

Imagine the following scene: It’s 10pm on a Friday night in the year 2019. You’ve committed to yet another dry January and it’s been a very, very long week. You find yourself in the kitchen and your washing machine is wailing at you. Its cycle has ended and you’re out of fabric softener. Meanwhile, from all angles of the house, your latest five voice assistants wake up and start vying for that all important product reorder. Each one trying to out trump the other with more and more outlandish one-liners.

The fridge now starts to squeal at you. Your milk supply is low and your latest medical wearable kicks into action. In real-time, this menacing bracelet pulls data from the cloud and helpfully ‘sonifies’ it into a garish sequence of tones and beeps, warning you that your calcium levels are catastrophically low.

Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?

In order for us all not to simply reach for the mute button, brands need to start future-proofing for the sound of tomorrow now.

The continuously evolving professions of UI and UX have shied away from sound in the past and for good reason. Ultimately, anything unnecessary for the end user should be eliminated. Visual user interfaces are dominant at the moment. We have screens on tablets, phones, watches and increasingly tiny devices. We don’t need to hear something if we can see it’s happened.

There are some UI sounds out there bucking the trend. A swift sequence of tumbling notes tells you that your iPhone battery is about to die. An arpeggiated major chord notifies you that you’ve sold those old Levi’s on eBay. We have Earcons like the WhatsApp ‘pop’, the Twitter refresh ‘droplet’ and the Facebook Messenger ‘bubble’. These are all intrinsically satisfying in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. Over time these audio icons embed into our lives and we accept them culturally.

As we move more towards an era of advanced virtual assistants, more voice and gesture interaction and less visual interfaces, sound will become more important. Apple’s email swoosh sound is an early example of this. One simple sound tells you that your action is complete, no visual confirmation needed. You are now free to continue with your next task, hands free.

In the case of less visual UI, many actions with a degree of uncertainty will benefit from this type of sonic confirmation. Did that file upload? Have I hit my 10,000 steps? Is the child lock on?

Voice will no doubt play a major part in this but sound and music have the ability to add further brand emotion or familiarity to an experience. It also doesn’t have to stop at a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ confirmation.

‘Sonification’ is the concept of auditing data and visualising it through sound. We decipher sound via changes in timbre, pitch, volume and spatial orientation. A simple fluctuation in tone can tell you as much information as a whole sentence of speech and be far less intrusive with it.

Central devices will be hubs for all your smart information, collating data from the cloud and sonifying it back to you. How your brand sounds amongst all the others in this cluttered environment will need to be designed with care. Branding, marketing, advertising, product and sound design teams will need to work in tandem in order to craft the best usability, aesthetics and eliminate any superfluous function.

The disciplines of sonic branding and UI sound services are becoming intrinsically linked. Clients are starting to think about what sound world they want to own in the future, not just in their communications but in all touchpoints, including their products. In order for this to happen, a holistic approach is needed and the ground work starts now.

Not only can the soundscape of tomorrow be more far more pleasurable, but there is the possibility of helping people’s lives through sound whilst simultaneously adding brand value.

Brands need to start creating a sound ecology that differentiates them whilst supporting their consumers. As we interact with a product, watch a commercial or experience a retail environment, it is only the brands of the future that have a fully considered, cohesive and familiar sonic identity that will stop us reaching for the mute button.

The post The sound of the Internet of Things (and why it matters for brands) appeared first on Creative Review.

Mythbusting Ancient Rome – the truth about the vomitorium

A Roman Feast by Roberto Bompiani (late 19th century). via Wikimedia Commons

After gorging on a feast of sausages, blood pudding, young sow’s udder, sea bream, lobster, mullet, Attic honey, and Syrian dates, all washed down with a few glasses Falernian wine, it is little wonder that a Roman diner might begin to feel quite full.

It was once thought that a diner could, at this point in the meal, make a quick visit to the vomitorium – a room adjacent to the dining room replete with a basin and feathers to tickle the throat – in order to make room for the next course.

There is a delightful array of Latin words associated with the act of throwing up, from the verbs vomo (“I vomit”) and vomito (“I keep on vomiting”) to the nouns vomitor (“one who vomits”) and vomitus and vomitio, both of which can either refer to the actual business of chundering or the yucky stuff itself.

The vomitorium is clearly part of this group, but no ancient source actually employs the word to describe a place for post-prandial puking. It first appears in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, written in the 5th century AD. Macrobius uses the plural vomitoria to refer to the passages through which spectators could “spew forth” into their seats at public entertainment venues. Vomitorium/vomitoria are still used today by archaeologists as architectural terms.

This misconception of the vomitorium as a vomiting room is widely acknowledged in popular culture. Our aim is to explore how the myth arose and why it has proved to be so persistent.

A vomitous history

In 1929, Aldous Huxley wrote in his comic novel, Antic Hay:

But Mr Mercaptan was to have no tranquillity this afternoon. The door of his sacred boudoir was thrown rudely open, and there strode in, like a Goth into the elegant marble vomitorium of Petronius Arbiter, a haggard and dishevelled person…

This passage is commonly cited as the first time vomitorium was misused to mean a room used for vomiting. However, there are references in newspapers and journals that pre-date Huxley, going back to the 19th century. They reflect the confusion about whether the vomitorium was a passageway or a room for emptying one’s stomach.

In an 1871 account of Christmas in England, French journalist and politician Felix Pyat described the holiday meal as “a gross, pagan, monstrous orgie – a Roman feast, in which the vomitorium is not wanting.” By 1871, then, the vomitorium was already misunderstood as a chunder chamber.

In the very same year English writer Augustus Hare published his Walks in Rome, in which he assumed that the chamber adjacent to the dining room in the Flavian Palace on the Palatine was none other than a vomitorium, which he described as “a disgusting memorial of Roman life”.

In these rooms, Hare imagined, Nero poisoned his step-brother Britannicus, the concubine Marcia drugged Commodus, and Pertinax received rumours of revolt. We can almost see the knowing smile of the anonymous critic in an 1888 edition of Saturday Review when he described Hare’s account of the vomitorium as a “delightful blunder”. Roman archaeology, our critic warned, is after all too technical a subject to be dealt with by an amateur.

An illustration in a 1916 edition of The Washington Post got the myth slightly wrong, showing bowls at the meal rather than a separate room.

Not to be left out, the Los Angeles Times ran two articles (in 1927 and 1928) mentioning Roman feasting and the vomitorium, one of which was a precursor to the notable historian Will Durant’s work The Story of Civilization. Here, “graduate Epicureans” avail themselves of the vomitorium to “free themselves for more”. By the time Huxley’s novel was published in 1929, therefore, a visit to the vomitorium was entrenched in the popular imagination as an essential part of any Roman dinner party.

Gluttonous Emperors

Where did the idea of the vomitorium come from? Huxley’s novel alludes to the stories of outrageous gluttony in the pages of Roman courtier Petronius’ Satyricon (written in the 1st century AD). As it happens, Petronius’ novel doesn’t feature the vomiting room, merely an unfortunate description of one character’s laboured bowel movements over dinner. For stories of dinner-time barfing, we have to look elsewhere, to scandalous stories of imperial excess contained in Suetonius’ On the Lives of the Caesars and Cassius Dio’s Roman History.

According to Suetonius, who was secretary of correspondence to the emperor Hadrian, the emperor Claudius always finished his meals excessively bloated with food and wine. He would then lie down so that a feather could be inserted down his throat to make him disgorge the contents of his stomach.

Claudius’ excesses paled in comparison to the emperor Vitellius, who allegedly feasted four times a day, and procured exotic foods from all over the empire to satiate his enormous appetite, including brains of pheasants and flamingo tongues. He is said to have vomited between meals in order to make room for the next banquet. The historian Cassius Dio memorably remarked that Vitellius was “nourished by the mere passage of the food”.

Gold coin of Vitellius.
Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-ND

Suetonius and Cassius Dio included such stories not only to entertain their readers, but also to make a point about the fitness of individuals to rule the Roman empire. Greed and gluttony represented devotion to pleasure and the inability to maintain control over one’s desires. Claudius and Vitellius are both said to have abandoned official duties for the sake of their next feast.

Suetonius claims that Claudius once left the courtroom when he caught a whiff of food cooking in the temple next door and went to join in the banquet. When presiding over sacrificial rituals, Vitellius is said to have gobbled up the sacrificial meat and cakes himself. Both these examples constitute gluttonous derelictions of duties. Vomiting was the ultimate sign of profligacy and wastefulness for an emperor, who was literally chucking up the wealth of his empire.

The morality and reality of food

Romans would have understood the moral messages contained in these anecdotes. A proper Roman man was supposed to be devoted to the gods, his family, and to the state – not to his belly. Excessive consumption of food was a sign of inner moral laxity.

The philosopher Seneca the Younger memorably remarked that if Roman men desired anything more than basic food and drink for sustenance, they were fulfilling not their needs, but their vices. He reserved particular criticism for those who spent their fortunes on exotic dishes:

They vomit so that they can eat, and they eat so that they can vomit. They don’t even consider the dishes which they have assembled from across the earth worthy of digestion.

This statement, as with the stories of Vitellius and Claudius, does not reflect reality for most Romans, least of all suggest that actual rooms were reserved for such decadent practices. It is a moral criticism.

Vomiting was actually more commonplace in the Roman world as a medical treatment. Celsus advised that vomiting should not become a daily practice (for that was a sign of luxury) but that it was acceptable to purge the stomach for health reasons. The adjective vomitorius/a/um was employed to describe emetics into the Victorian period.

Bread seller in Pompeii mural.
via Wikimedia Commons

Most residents of the city of Rome could not be so cavalier about wasting their calories. Their subsistence diets consisted mainly of cereals, legumes, olive oil, and wine, which had to sustain them through their lives of manual labour. The food that Vitellius gobbled up at sacrifices to satiate his enormous appetite would have been gratefully savoured by the people of Rome.

Such foodstuffs were carefully controlled. Even at religious festivals, the best sacrificial meat was reserved for aristocratic participants or sold off, not distributed to the common people. The famous “grain dole” provided to Romans was in fact a privilege confined to a mere 150,000 eligible citizens out of the million plus residents of the city of Rome. Food was a privilege.

Of course, Macrobius’ own use of the term vomitoria was connected to vomiting, conjuring up the image of the amphitheatre spewing out people. The association between an architectural term and lurid stories of vomiting Romans found in ancient texts easily led to the misinterpretation of the vomitorium as a room for throwing up in the 19th-century imagination. Those who dined to excess were regarded as similar to Romans, a people popularly known for their luxury and decadence.

The myth of the vomitorium has therefore been shaped by our fascination with the antics of dissolute emperors and elites who loved a Technicolor yawn between meals. Since antiquity, we have derived pleasure from hearing about and criticising the overindulgent dining habits of others as a sign of their moral laxity.

(Mis)interpreting a suggestive word like vomitorium as a room intrinsically tied to such decadence was a mistake waiting to happen.

The Conversation

Caillan Davenport receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Shushma Malik does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

New LSO identity translates Sir Simon Rattle’s conducting into graphic form

These are exciting times for the London Symphony Orchestra. After losing a £5m Government contribution toward the development of its proposed new concert hall late last year, the City of London has now stepped forward with an offer to plug the gap and the project is back on track.

Added to that, LSO’s new Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle, has announced exciting plans for his first season in charge this autumn, with a concert in Tate’s Turbine Hall a highlight.


To coincide with the launch of the autumn season, The Partners have created a new visual identity for the LSO that renders Rattle’s distinctive conducting style into 3D motion graphics.

The project is a result of an extensive audit carried out by The Partners into the brand communications of orchestras across Europe. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it found that most were very traditional in their approach, with little to distinguish one from another in branding terms.

The Partners/Tobias Gremmler
The Partners/Tobias Gremmler

The LSO itself, The Partners argued “was being presented in an extremely traditional manner, failing to differentiate itself enough from other orchestras across London and Britain”.

The new identity seeks to highlight the orchestra’s history of innovation and its “visceral, vivid and always moving” performances, say The Partners. It takes as its starting points the familiar ‘conductor’s baton’ logo created for the orchestra by The Partners in 2004 and Rattle himself.

Working with the University of Portsmouth and Vicon Motion Systems, The Partners used live motion-capture to record Rattle conducting movements on Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, ‘Enigma’. A circle of 12 cameras captured Rattle as he conducted using a specially-modified baton.

Motion capture with Sir Simon Rattle
Rattle's movements were translated into motion graphics

The data collected was then sent to Singapore-based digital artist Tobias Gremmler who worked with the Partners team to transform the motion data into a series of four animated films reflecting the varied emotional qualities of the music.

Imagery build1
Imagery build2
Imagery build3
Imagery build4

wave print_00006
The Partners/Tobias Gremmler

The films form the basis for a visual language to be used across communications for the LSO, starting with the 2017/18 season and extending to LSO Discovery (the Orchestra’s education and community programme), LSO Live (its record label) and LSO St Luke’s (a unique multipurpose venue) as well as multiple partner and patron schemes.

LSO poster Bernstein
LSO poster Debussy
LSO Elgar poster
LSO Bernstein poster
LSO Prokofiev poster

Along with a redrawn version of the LSO logo, stills from the films are used as the dominant images on posters which also feature upper case type that references the movement of the baton.

LSO type con fuoco
LSO type con moto

The type is based on two approaches; a fluid movement and a more angular movement identified in Rattle’s actions. These are applied to individual letters in the various headlines used on the posters and on other treatments such as spreads in the LSO Season Guide.

LSO Season Guide
LSO Season Guide
LSO Season Guide

LSO player photography
LSO player photography by Ranald Mackechnie

The LSO is keen to position itself as an innovator – an accessible, passionate and progressive force in classical music. The new scheme certainly sets it apart from its rivals, with its promise of energy and innovation and that super-strong, impactful type.

wave print_00004
The Partners/Tobias Gremmler

It’s also nicely integrated with the existing mark – something that such schemes often struggle with. Through the typography and into the graphics and motion graphics, the central concept of the brand flows convincingly. There’s a logic to the approach that avoids it seeming to be trying too hard to be contemporary.

And – as the Partners’ leads on the project Stuart Radford and Marc Spicer point out – an interesting reflection on changes in the branding world. Almost all schemes now come with a moving image component. If The Partners had come up with that mark today, they say, these motion elements are precisely the kind of thing they would have wanted to do with it.

The Partners/Tobias Gremmler
The Partners/Tobias Gremmler

Branding Agency: The Partners
Creative Director: Stuart Radford
Senior Designer: Marc Spicer
Account Director: Suzanne Neal
Digital Artist: Tobias Gremmler
Motion capture: University of Portsmouth and Vicon Motion Systems
Musician photography: Ranald Mackechnie

On-stage visual

The post New LSO identity translates Sir Simon Rattle’s conducting into graphic form appeared first on Creative Review.

a modern castle.

vtwonen modern castle. / sfgirlbybay

ever wondered what a 12th-century castle would look like with modern renovations? well, look no further! vt wonen recently featured the fascinating story of this french chateau located in Dirac, France and the family who lives there, which includes Isabelle and Hubert Site, owners of les petites emplettes, and their three daughters.

according to Isabelle, the family first visited the castle back in 2013, and it was love at first sight. after a two-year long renovation, the family brought the crumbling castle back to life, but left behind hints of the castle’s rustic past, such as the bits of wallpaper and peeling paint in order to give the home a bohemian, eclectic vibe. this home also happens to feature a few bold bold pops of pantone‘s 2017 color of the year: greenery. for more photos of this truly whimsical space, check out vt wonen no. 12.

modern dining room in castle featured in vtwonen. / sfgirlbybay

wood light fixture in french chateau via vtwonen. / sfgirlbybay

green and wood staircase in castle via vtwonen. / sfgirlbybay





• photography via vt wonen.

New Impossibly Intricate Embroideries by Chloe Giordano

We continue to be enthralled by the work of Chloe Giordano (previously here and here) who produces everything from tiny coin-sized depictions of woodland creatures to entire book covers typography and all. The Oxford-based illustrator is entirely self-taught, learning her craft “through a lot of trying things out and messing them up.” Each piece is deeply connected to her pencil drawings, as she works out many of the details on paper before turning to thread. Giordano frequently fields questions on her Tumblr and you can follow more of her progress on Instagram.

This Is What All 20,520 Words In Hamilton Look Like Visualized

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Hamilton, the Pulitzer-Prize winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though the Broadway hit first opened a year and a half ago, people are still clamoring to see the musical, with productions in San Francisco and London opening later in 2017. With its popularity continually growing, software engineer Shirley Wu decided to create an interactive visualization of all 20,520 words in the musical.

hamilton visualization

Her visualization makes it possible to analyze the relationship Hamilton has with his fellow countrymen and countrywomen, showing the significance of each character’s relationship in any particular song. For instance, you can follow Hamilton’s rivalry with Thomas Jefferson as it escalates throughout the musical to the point where it completely vanishes from the story.

hamilton visualization

Wu went through the entire musical, examining each line, in order to place them into two categories: who sang it and two whom. She then created an interactive visualization of the data she collected, generating a way for users to examine recurring themes, such as ambition, legacy, and personality, and how those themes influence Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Washington, and other characters.

Check out Wu’s visualization here and if you want some more Hamilton goodness, check out this algorithm.

[Via: Co.Design]

Open call for Trauma & Revival

Open call for Trauma & Revival
Deadline: February 9, 2017


Open call for Trauma & Revival: Contemporary Encounters residency programs conceived by: kim? Contemporary Art Centre (Riga, Latvia) and Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella, Italy) under the umbrella of UNIDEE – University of Ideas.

The two residencies are developed under the framework of Trauma & Revival. Cultural relations between Eastern and Western Europe, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union (2015-2018).

Workshop in Moscow (Russia)
4 days during the week of 15-22 May 2017.
Including a visit of the exhibition Facing the Future: Art in Europe 1945 – 1968 at Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and of other key Russian cultural actors

Residencykim? Contemporary Art Centre (Latvia)
kim? Contemporary Art Centre (Riga, Latvia), July 8 – 22, 2017.
Number of participants: 12

Residency – Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Italy)
Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella, Italy), September 11 – 30, 2017.
Number of participants: 10

Workshop in Krakow (Poland)
During 2nd week of October 2017.
Programme to be confirmed.

Deadline: February 9, 2017


The two-week residency by kim? Contemporary Art Centre, taking place at its venue in Riga, Latvia will pay attention to the historical complexities, common memories and imagined futures that have been significant in the East – West dichotomy relationship, particularly in the infrastructure of the Baltic countries, which has been a frontier between Russia and Europe. The programme, curated and designed by professionals coming from various fields will question the notions of frontiers and borders, disconnection, separation and union, a common realm, joint memories and futures, among other important topics.

The three-week residency at Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto is developed within the framework of UNIDEE – University of Ideas, which is an educational programme investigating the relationship between art and the public sphere and combines theory with practice. UNIDEE will offer a programme based on lectures, seminars, collective discussions and a final open studio event. The participants will be guided throughout the residency programme by a tutor and a group of acknowledged international experts. The 2017 UNIDEE programme is shaped around three macro-topics: Revolution, Desire, Mediation. These will also be guidelines for residency participants to suggest critical and new inputs, and to propose geo-political links between the time-lapse (1945-1968) and the historical, social and economic issues expressed in the general frame of Trauma & Revival project. Independent curator Aria Spinelli will tutor the three-week residency. Independent curator Aria Spinelli will tutor the three-week residency.

Both residencies will focus on the series of discussions, talks, lectures and presentations directed towards the development of a unique body of work – artistic interventions that will be further considered and potentially included in a contemporary art exhibition that will be erected at kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow and Center for Fine Arts (Bozar), Brussels in 2018.

The grant covers:
• Travel reimbursement to and from the residency venues and VISA costs. The travel costs should be economy class tickets only.
• Accommodation at kim? or/and at Cittadellarte.
• Artists’ fee – payable according to international and local laws.
• Additionally travel and accommodation costs will be covered for the trips to Moscow and Krakow in 2017.

A budget for production will be available to the participants only in Cittadellarte’s residency.

You are eligible to apply if you are (all conditions below must be met):
• A visual artist or creative professional, active in art and culture or related fields, coming from Russia or any European country (those who are native of other parts of the world but living and resident in Europe are also eligible to apply);
• Born after 1982;
• Fluent in English.

You can READ MORE ABOUT THE CALL AND DOWLOAD THE APPLICATION FORM for kim? residency click here  and for Cittadellarte residency click here.

If you have enquiries, please contact us at (for kim? residency) and (for Cittadellarte residency).

We look forward to your application!

The world’s best wildlife photography reveals a fragile, beautiful realm

Tim Laman was the overall winner of the Wildlife Photography Competition for his series Entwined Lives. Supplied

From a leopard slipping through a Mumbai alleyway to giant cuttlefish courting under the sea, the striking images featured in the current Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition are at once beautiful, technically astounding and, often, incredibly moving.

Before the widening rupture between humans and nature, creating images of animals was of the utmost importance: animals were among the first subject matter for painting. In his essay Why Look at Animals, the late and renowned art critic John Berger argues that animals “first entered the imagination as messengers and promises”.

Wildlife photography joins in this ancient representative tradition, giving new life to animals as symbols and storytellers for the natural world.

Nayan Khanolkar spent four months waiting for this shot of a leopard roaming the suburbs of Mumbai, which won the Urban category.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the annual competition run by the Natural History Museum of London. From modest beginnings in 1965, with fewer than 400 entries, it has developed into one of the largest and most prestigious photographic competitions in the world.

This year, the competition received over 42,000 entries from almost 100 countries. From these, an international jury selected 100 images across 18 categories, constituting the touring exhibition. It’s currently being hosted, for the third time, at Geelong’s splendid National Wool Museum. This is the only Victorian venue to host the exhibition, under the direction of Padraic Fisher and senior curator Georgia Melville.

Willem Kruger snapped this dynamic action shot of a yellow-billed hornbill foraging for termites in South Africa.

In Geelong, the images are complemented by The Dead Zoo, a subtle addition to the exhibition space of taxidermy displays drawn from the Wool Museum’s own collection. There’s also an ambient soundscape produced by Joel Carnegie, and the parallel Geelong by Nature exhibition, a local wildlife photography competition.

Both competitions underscore what a demanding pursuit wildlife photography can be, requiring an enormous commitment to capturing the perfect shot. Think long hours spent in freezing conditions, with a constant regime of pushups just to keep warm – a scenario endured by Andrew Parkinson while photographing mountain hares on a Scottish icefield!

Australian photographer Scott Portelli captured giant cuttlefish in his image Collective Courtship.

This enthusiastic persistence is increasingly enabled by the proliferation of non-specialist equipment, such as smartphones and the GoPro camera, as used by Tim Laman – the overall winner of Photographer of the Year for his six-photo series Entwined Lives. Taking in a sweeping treetop view of the Indonesian rainforest, the vertigo-inducing portrait of an orangutan is spectacular.

Like many of the entries, the photograph’s grandeur is a culmination of artistry, originality and technical excellence. The visually sumptuous images are coupled with engaging tales of the exotic locations, and the supreme effort and persistence involved in their creation – along with a healthy dose of serendipity and great timing.

Tim Laman spent three days climbing fig trees in the Indonesian forest, placing remotely triggered GoPro cameras above the canopy.

With a direct gaze that seems to reflect our own, Laman’s subject also conveys a sense of intimacy and solitary pathos; significant, perhaps, if one considers the endangered status of the Bornean orangutan.

With the growing accessibility of portable or remotely activated gear like the GoPro, there’s a sense of ongoing growth and democratisation of photography competitions. Through this, we are given scope for deeper immersion and understanding of a natural world subject to, and often imperilled by, the inexorable footprint of humanity.

After weeks of scouting, UK photograher Sam Hobson was able to gain the trust of a family of urban foxes.

A case in point is the winner of one of the photojournalism categories, Australian Paul Hilton’s image of a mass of illegally hunted pangolins, seized before their intended export while frozen from Sumatra and laid out to thaw. Reminiscent of spiral seashells in an abstract, almost monochrome composition, the details of their tightly curled bodies emerge only on closer inspection.

It’s a striking image, but one with a tragic back-story. Few people, before seeing this exhibition, are likely to have even known what a pangolin is, and certainly not that these small, critically endangered mammals are the most-trafficked animals in the world.

Australian Paul Hilton won the Wildlife Photojournalist category with his image of some 4,000 smuggled pangolins.

The combination of artistry and a strong environmental narrative is a recurring theme throughout the exhibition, and one that undoubtedly motivates the photographers themselves. Featured entrant Douglas Gimsey, another Australian photojournalist, cites changing people’s behaviour as a central driver for his projects.

In his tender image Caring for Joey, Gimsey underlines the ongoing issue of high-speed kangaroo road deaths on Kangaroo Island in the hope of advocating for improved governance and community awareness. It’s a sentiment that surely resonates with photographers and visitors to the exhibit alike, as they contemplate the wild theatre of our natural environment, and the diverse species that share in it.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition runs from January 15 to May 14 at the National Wool Museum in Geelong. It will then tour Australia.

The Conversation

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