Victoria Memorial Hall Kolkata (VMH), Natural History Museum London (NHM) and British Council announced the opening of an exhibit titled Young Minds for a Compassionate World, as part of the ongoing India/UK Together, a Season of Culture.
The exhibit was inaugurated by Scott McDonald, Chief Executive, British Council, with His Excellency Alex Ellis, High Commissioner, British High Commission in India, in the presence of Dr Jayanta Sengupta, Secretary and Curator (Director), Victoria Memorial Hall and Gemma Ward, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition Manager, Natural History Museum, London. This exhibit is an outcome of a youth outreach programme in West Bengal, executed collaboratively by two iconic institutions in India and the UK – the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata and the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London.
The programme 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 communicate their voices, concerns, and aspirations. Kolkata got a glimpse of the India-UK artistic collaboration as the iconic Victoria Memorial Hall was transformed into a live green structure through an experiential and immersive sound and lightprojection. The grass, trees and forests projected on the eastern façade of the building, and the complementary music, brought to life the theme of compassion towards nature.
Thirty three students participated in a six-day photography and conservation training programme earlier in 2022. Aged between 15-22 years, the students worked with alumni from the Natural HistoryMuseum’s iconic Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, conservationists, and filmmakers, and engaged in dialogue and training 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 ranging from nature observation skills and fieldcraft, storytelling to the basics of wildlife photography and photography editing skills for conservation purposes.A collection of 115 photographs resulting from these workshops are on display for the two-month exhibition which opened at the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, today. The collection also includes 15 from the mentors/ alumni of the NHM’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Scott McDonald, Chief Executive, British Council, said, “In this critical time of climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction and disease outbreak, it has never been more important to work together internationally to find solutions that work for all. As part of the India/UK Together Season of Culture, this project brought together young artists and museums to join a vital global conversation. This collaboration is a prime example of how the British Council enables young people and artists globally, empowering them to conserve and protect people and planet. My congratulations to the participants, the Natural History Museum in London, Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata and the wonderful expert trainers – the leading lights in conservation and wildlife photography.”
Dr Jayanta Sengupta, Secretary and Curator, Victoria Memorial Hall, said, “Our idea behind the programme was to train young people as climate ambassadors. It is more crucial than ever that we collaborate internationally to discover answers that benefit everyone in this period of climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat devastation, and disease epidemic. And there is no one better equipped to effect long lasting change than the youth. We are happy that the Natural History Museum and British Council have enabled us to equip young people with both awareness and techniques.’”
Gemma Ward, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition Manager, Natural History Museum, said, “We wanted to create a platform for young people where they would work closely with our awarded photographers and learn from some of the best artistic minds. Wildlife Photographer of the Year goes far beyond an annual competition. It is a growing, global community working to inspire and engage young photographers, and connect them to local nature through wildlife photography. We are honoured to partner with the Victoria Memorial Hall to create this unique showcase and to be a part of British Council’s India/UK Together, a Season of Culture.”