While forests are disappearing, concrete jungles are filling their place. Wildlife is in danger: 250 Philippine crocodiles, 100 Mexican axolotls, 75 red wolves... these numbers indicate the population of each creature that is barely surviving on Earth. If we turn away from their survival issues, it is only a matter of time before they disappear for good. Blinded by greed and selfishness, humans tend to be carried away with dangerous thoughts that they are living on this Earth alone. The planet is where all creatures, no matter how big or small, should coexist. Today, we are losing species at a rate faster than ever before. For many people, endangered species are out of their concern. To those, Joel Sartore is telling the story of a dying ecosystem through photos. There is nothing like seeing for oneself. Let’s get on board the National Geographic special exhibition, “Photo Ark.”
On Board the Photo Ark
Each photograph in the exhibit is marked with the creature’s status, mostly determined by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). It is the world’s oldest and largest environmental organization and evaluates species to estimate their risk of extinction. The level of threat may vary, but the point is that each and every one of them are critically important to the ecosystem. Life on our planet is interconnected and the interaction within the environment is the key to keep the earth healthy for all of us. In order to save endangered species, efforts such as habitat preservation and captive breeding programs are necessary. And such movements to save species cannot be put off, as there is a gloomy estimate warning us that half of all the planet’s species could be lost by 2100. Due to various, complicated causes such as habitat destruction, overhunting, climate change, and environmental pollution, extinction vortex is taking place around the world. The exhibit urges viewers that we must work together to reverse this situation.
Save Together: Photo Ark Project
It was over a decade ago when Joel Sartore started the Photo Ark project in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. Since then, he has visited more than 40 countries in his quest to capture nearly 12,000 species of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. What’s more, the project is continuously growing, with a goal to add approximately 700 species per year. The filming process takes great care to minimize animals’ stress. For instance, the actual photo shoot takes no more than 5 minutes, while preparing for it before an animal arrives takes about 45 minutes. The goal of Photo Ark is simple: to show visually what animals are at stake and getting people to realize the importance of saving the endangered species while there is still time. Therefore, Photo Ark is not only an archive of global biodiversity, but also serves as an important record of each animal’s existence.
Notable Features from the Exhibit
Most sections have walls that are shaped like a curtain draped to the floor. Due to its unique shape, it can be difficult for viewers to see the photos closely. However, it is all intended, to represent part of the scene from Joel Sartore’s studio. As a matter of fact, the curtain walls depict the briskness when Joel Sartore quickly closes the curtains after pressing the shutter.
Overall, the walls of the exhibition hall are in white and black colors, in order to visualize a solemn atmosphere and constantly remind viewers that it is a serious issue. As you walk around the exhibit, you will notice a graver look inside the fifth section. Walls are surrounded by white curtains, displayed to portray a scene from a funeral. On the curtains hang pictures of the last surviving species of now extinct animals.
Before exiting the exhibit, why not take time to visit one of the special exhibitions: Media Zoo? It unfolds the story of a series of animals through fantasy, like watching a fairy tale. With colorful media art in display, media zoo takes viewers to a land you can experience a daydream. It is a section where children and adults can enjoy together.
When looking at each photo, the animals look adorable and fascinating. However, this thought won’t last long if you realize that their existence is at stake. The exhibition raises awareness of protecting the ecosystem, the seriousness of the endangered species and our responsibility to save them before it is too late. The Photo Ark was born out of desperation. So many species are in need of our help. It is our turn to make sure that the photographs of the endangered species from the exhibit do not become their final memorial.
Time: 10:00~18:00 (Closed on every Monday)
Location: War Memorial of Korea, Special Exhibition Hall
Price: Adult: 15,000 won
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