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October 31 2011

TERRA 614: Feeding the Problem

What began in 1912 as a gracious effort to save the Jackson Hole elk herd from harsh winters, shrinking habitat, and dwindling forage, has morphed into a century-long feeding program on what is now the National Elk Refuge and 22 other State-run feed grounds. This biological experiment has created a petri dish for wildlife disease and is now one of the most contentious, fiercely debated issues in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Feeding the Problem is a balanced and in-depth exploration of this unique conservation dilemma from the people most intimately connected to it.

November 10 2010

Huntress catches portrait prize

David Chancellor's photo of 14-year-old Josie Slaughter on a horse carrying a dead buck beat 6,000 submissions to win

An arresting image of a teenage girl on horseback with her trophy of a hunted dead buck was last night named winner of a major photographic portrait prize.

The photographer David Chancellor was given this year's Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery in London forhis submission, Huntress with Buck.

The image shows 14-year-old Josie Slaughter from Alabama on her first hunting trip to South Africa. Against a stunning background and sky, she looks impassively in to the camera, holding the dead animal's antlers up to prevent it flopping lifelessly over the horse's neck.

Chancellor said the location and light were key to the image's power. "Josie had hunted her buck earlier in the day and was returning to camp," he said. "As we arrived, the sun set below the cloud cover and I had almost unreal light for around a minute.

"The contrast between the peace and tranquillity of the location plus Josie's ethereal beauty and the dead buck was what I wanted to explore. Here was a vulnerability and yet also a strength."

Chancellor, who wins £12,000, took the photograph – shooting Kodak 160VC 120 film on a Mamiya 7 II camera – as part of a bigger project documenting hunters and the hunted.

He said he wanted "to explore the intricate and complex relationship between man and animals and how both struggle to adapt to their changing environment."

Chancellor, who divides his time between London and Cape Town, said he tried to remain objective about the subject matter: "The aim is always to be detached. In reality that's rarely possible, but I do hope I can observe without an agenda and without the necessity to shout."

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery and chairman of the judges, called Chancellor's image "a powerful and beautiful portrait, a worthy winner amidst a strong international submission".

Second prize went to Panayiotis Lamprou for Portrait of my British wife and third to Jeffrey Stockbridge for Tic Tac and Tootsie.

The portraits form part of an exhibition – with 60 portraits whittled down from nearly 6,000 submissions – that runs at the NPG from tomorrow until 20 February and then at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from 16 April until 26 June.


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May 09 2010

Rare display for 'gruesome' painting

A bloodthirsty painting of a Highlands otter hunt has been controversially chosen as the centrepiece of an exhibition of art celebrating hunting and sport

A painting normally considered too upsetting for modern tastes – bloodthirsty hounds, triumphant hunter and speared otter – is to go on display as the centrepiece of a new exhibition examining the artistic celebration of hunting and sport.

Curators at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham, admit they thought long and hard about whether a visitor warning for Sir Edwin Landseer's depiction of a Highlands otter hunt (the otter lost) was needed. They decided against but are open to changing their minds.

In the meantime, it will go on display for the entire summer from on Tuesday along with old and new works exploring Britain's passion for hunting, horse racing, football and boxing.

Exhibition curator Laura Layfield admitted that, while impressive, the painting is undeniably "gruesome" and the reason why it was taken off permanent display by its owners, the Laing in Newcastle. "It is an amazing landscape and we're offering a rare chance to see it," she said. "This is the perfect example of showing how Landseer was trying to produce history paintings, it is almost like a battlefield scene."

Landseer – who sculpted the lions in Trafalgar Square – spent a long time in the Highlands watching country life and the otter painting depicts a hunter and enthusiastic otter hounds belonging to the Earl of Aberdeen.

He wanted, along with artists such as George Stubbs and Alfred Munnings, to show that depicting sport and animals was not, as many sniffily thought, a lower form of art.

Horse racing features heavily in the show, reflecting the passions of the museum's founder, John Bowes, who, with a remarkable horse called West Australian, was the first man, as owner, to win the Triple Crown (Derby, St Leger, 2,000 Guineas).

The show is the first in the museum's new temporary exhibition space and is - along with new galleries for decorative arts and fashion/textiles - the latest evolution of a museum with one of the most romantic histories of any in the UK.

The building – imposing and grand – opened in 1892 in the pretty Teesdale market town of Barnard Castle, the fulfilment of a philanthropic dream held by Bowes and his wife Joséphine .

Bowes's life story is the stuff of fiction. He was the illegitimate son of the tenth earl of Strathmore and Mary Millner, a working class village girl. Because of that, on his father's death the title and Scottish estates went to Bowes' uncle while he had to make do with a not insubstantial inheritance in Durham.

After Eton and Cambridge, Bowes served 15 years as Liberal MP for South Durham before, in 1847, having some sort of epiphany. He moved to Paris and bought the Theatre des Varietes, beginning a relationship with a not very good actress called Mademoiselle Delorme, or Benoite-JosephineCoffin-Chevallier as she preferred not to be known.

It was a match made in heaven and they married in 1852, becoming enthusiastic patrons of the arts and voracious collectors of paintings, ceramics, and furniture.

They had no children which probably fed their obsession of creating a museum of national renown to house their vast collection.

Although it is packed with Sèvres and Meissen ceramics as well as paintings by the likes of Gainsborough, El Greco and Goya, the most popular item in the museum is still a mechanical silver swan which visitors breathlessly run to each day to see it wound up at 2pm whereupon - for 32 seconds - it preens itself, bends its neck and takes a fish from the water. It was bought by the Bowes' after they saw it at the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, also seen by Mark Twain who described it in The Innocents Abroad - "I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes." These days it's also on Youtube.

• British Sporting Art runs 11 May-10 October.


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November 09 2009

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