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About the Art: Andrew George

Our new exhibition, European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, runs until 15 January 2017. Here we talk to photographer Andrew George about his work. 

  • About the Art: Andrew George, Dancing with the Moon on display at the Horniman,  Andrew George
    Dancing with the Moon on display at the Horniman,  Andrew George

You have two pictures in this exhibition, 'Dancing with the Moon' and 'Umbrella'. Start by telling us a little about your winter scene with the dazzling northern lights. How long did you have to wait to capture the light in the way you wanted for ‘Dancing with the Moon’?

I only had to wait between one to two hours. I’ve examined the weather and aurora forecast carefully and all the signs where very promising. Since I often travel to Iceland, I know the best spots to photograph the northern lights. At the time, I was not far from Reykjavik and on my way to the airport when I knew I had a good chance at taking pictures at a nearby non-tourist spot by some mountains which would block the city lights.

  • About the Art: Andrew George, The northern lights in Iceland, March 2016,  Andrew George
    The northern lights in Iceland, March 2016,  Andrew George
To get my shot, I used a sturdy tripod and a wide-angle lens with a fast F-stop (Nikon 14-24 F2.8) on a Nikon D800 and a cable release. I also wore very warm clothing and snow boots. The weather can be very extreme in 'special' conditions such as these. It is a very difficult task to stay dry or warm in cold regions of the earth. Also, the equipment sometimes needs protection from severe weather.

  • About the Art: Andrew George, A picture of Andrew George taking photographs in the High Fens, Belgium Ardennes,  Andrew George
    A picture of Andrew George taking photographs in the High Fens, Belgium Ardennes,  Andrew George

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

I hope they get inspired and have a new respect for nature.

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of wildlife in their local environment?

For wildlife photography, you need to do research, observe and gain knowledge about your subject. You also need to have perseverance.  I love to photograph landscapes in any form. I also like to photograph small and common subjects in an artistic way. But it’s getting harder and harder to create natural nature and wildlife photography. I always need to recompose to not have the human element in the frame.

What have you been up to since the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 competition? What projects are you working on now?

I always get new inspiration through nature close to home and photograph with an open mind. So I often get surprised and sometimes I work on one thing for only a short period of time with a creative perspective. But recently I’m working on a project 'Dances with Trees' in the Speulderbos, Veluwe, The Netherlands. The beech trees in this forest are curved and long. But also trees in general really attract me.

  • About the Art: Andrew George, A selfportrait in the Dutch forest (Speulderbos, Veluwe, The Netherlands) from the 'Dances with trees' project 2016 ,  Andrew George
    A selfportrait in the Dutch forest (Speulderbos, Veluwe, The Netherlands) from the 'Dances with trees' project 2016 ,  Andrew George

I also try to get out of my comfort zone and I just started to work on a project 'Inspired by Van Gogh', The Dutch painter, as I live close to the scenes Vincent van Gogh has painted in The Netherlands (Nuenen, Noord-Brabant) both natural environment and buildings which Van Gogh also has painted.

  • About the Art: Andrew George, Umbrella on display at the Horniman,  Andrew George
    Umbrella on display at the Horniman,  Andrew George

Read more photography tips from Andrew.

About the art: Jazmine Miles-Long

We chat to ethical taxidermist and artist, Jazmine Miles-Long, about her new display 'Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy'.

  • Woodcock, Woodcock detail − ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Woodcock detail

Your new display takes its inspiration from the Horniman collection. What made you want to mirror an historic collection in this way?

The pieces I have chosen from the Horniman's collection all have their own eccentricities, even though they are not the most beautiful and striking works that I could have picked. I wanted to show some of the objects from the collection that would not necessarily have the chance to be put on public display as others within the collection do outshine them. I wanted to show that each piece of taxidermy has a history and charm that should be appreciated.

By creating replicas of the works, I wanted to focus attention on the details of the objects, from the decisions made by the taxidermists, to the labels added over time by museums. 

Through the use of white cases and delicate porcelain, I have created ghostly monuments of the originals. Silhouetting my own specimens to commemorate their beauty and fragility in life and now as objects representing their species.

  • Ceramic case, Building the ceramics into the case − ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Building the ceramics into the case

What do you want people to think when they see these artworks side by side?

I want them to be drawn into the makers behind the works and notice the taxidermy throughout the museum. Seeing the works as intricately crafted objects rather than simply preserved dead animals.

Taxidermy is such an unknown craft that I think it is often misunderstood. Through this exhibition, I hope to challenge perceptions and present the many skills taxidermists need to create work.

  • Woodcock, Painting the woodcock's leg − ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Painting the woodcock's leg

I hope to portray taxidermy as a heartfelt art form that shows compassion for the natural world and its importance as an evolving craft still used today.

I only work with animals that have died from natural causes or as the result of road casualties. And although many pieces within historical museum collections would have been hunted, it does not mean we should dismiss these objects as they are useful educational tools that speak of a different time and are part of our cultural heritage.

  •  Rabbit, Horniman and Jazmine's rabbits next to each other. − ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Horniman and Jazmine's rabbits next to each other.

How did you decide which pieces to include in this exhibition?

When taxidermy is donated to a museum, information such as the name of the taxidermist, the collector and time and mode of death of the animal is not always recorded. So over time the story behind the work is often lost. This lack of information creates an air of mystery behind the work and this influenced my decision in choosing these five specimens. For instance, the magpie has obviously been lovingly made, in the groundwork of the piece even false rocks have been sculpted out of paper. But there is no information about the artefact apart from that is was presented to The Horniman in 1961. And so the story behind this magpie and its creator is most probably lost forever.

For instance, the magpie has obviously been lovingly made, in the groundwork of the piece even false rocks have been sculpted out of paper. But there is no information about the artefact apart from that is was presented to The Horniman in 1961. And so the story behind this magpie and its creator is most probably lost forever.

  • Magpie, Magpie in process − ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Magpie in process

What is your favourite piece of taxidermy from our collection?

I love all of the work in the collection by Edward Hart, his ability to create such vast scenes in small cases and his attention to detail is astonishing. My favourite is probably the two European Robins in a winter scene. The case is as picturesque as a christmas card, but it has a sinister twist. One of the robins is singing or possibly calling a warning, as the other looks inside of the brick bird trap that he is perched upon. The story within the case pulls you into a seemingly quaint scenario, either the robins know what this trap is or everything is about to go wrong.

  • Robins, Two robins from Edward Hart's collection at the Horniman− ©  Jazmine Miles-Long
    Two robins from Edward Hart's collection at the Horniman

See Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy on display in our Natural History Gallery until 1 May 2017.

About the Art: Richard Peters

Our new exhibition, European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, opens 26 November. To celebrate, we chat to Richard Peters about his winning photograph, 'Shadow Walker'.

  • Shadow Walker, 'Shadow Walker', winner of European Photographer of the Year 2015,  Richard Peters
    'Shadow Walker', winner of European Photographer of the Year 2015,  Richard Peters

Tell us the story behind your winning photograph ‘Shadow Walker’. 

For a while, we had no security light at the back of our house so I shone a torch from the back door to see what was going on outside. One evening, a fox walked out along the side of the shed and through the torch light. In doing so it cast a shadow on the shed and as soon as I saw that I knew it would make a great image if I could capture just the shadow of the subject. 

It took six months from that initial idea to finally figure out how best to capture the image in a way that helped convey the notion that foxes come out and forage in the shadows just as the human world is going to sleep. I wanted a clear sky to show the stars, which required a night with little to no moonlight, the shadow needed to be both perfectly placed and positioned and a finishing touch was the neighbouring light being left on.

Using a camera trap was the only way to capture the desired photo, meaning I had to pre-visualise the photo and set the camera accordingly. With all those elements needing to come together, it was a frustrating photo to take, with many failed attempts before it all finally came together.

Did you get to know the foxes in your local area before taking the shot?

We moved into our house a year before I started photographing the local foxes. Actually, for the first year of living there I didn’t even know we had a local population as I never saw any. Then one weekend, a friend stayed the night and commented how he had seen a fox in the garden early the next morning. After that revelation, I started to pay more attention to what was going on outside and what wildlife I could attract to the garden with bird feeders and fresh water.

In doing this, the local foxes started to pay more attention to the garden and so I put a trail camera out to monitor the activity further. In doing that I also discovered I had badgers visiting the garden too!

The entire process of photographing them became a year long project I called Back Garden Safari, which spawned an ebook and popular talk.

  • Intersecting Worlds, 'Intersecting Worlds',  Richard Peters
    'Intersecting Worlds',  Richard Peters

Did you use any particular equipment?

My camera bag is no doubt very similar to many other photographers with a selection of DSLR’s, lenses and various accessories. I’ve always used Nikon equipment, currently shooting with two D810’s as my main bodies, but aside from the typical kit I also use camera traps occasionally to try and capture images that wouldn’t be possible with conventional methods.

I try not to limit myself to one particular type of shot, however, which is why I use a variation of traditional and camera trap methods, depending on the circumstances.

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

Although I shoot first and foremost to satisfy my own artistic vision, I would like to hope the style of my work connects on some form of emotional level with the viewer. I hope it can inspire them give more thought to a species under threat or to their local environment and how wildlife is being forced to adapt to survive.

If it can have an impact on even one percent of people who view my work, and that emotional connection prompts them to take action in their own little way to help preserve the planet's wildlife, I would be thrilled.

How long have you been a photographer and how did you get started in your career?

I’ve always had a natural creative streak, favouring art and design over more academic subjects. I also grew up watching natural history documentaries in which I remember always being amazed by the sights they would show. Then, when a friend gave me an old film camera to play with it was only a matter of time before my creative side and enjoyment of the natural world came together.

I then dipped in and out of photography over the years as it remained a hobby against my day job in the media industry. Then about six years ago it became a more serious endeavour and I started committing more time and effort into capturing images.

Eventually, a set of circumstances all came together at the right time enabling me to switch my career path to fully embrace photography.

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of wildlife in their local environment?

Absolutely do it. Local wildlife can be just as inspiring and photogenic as species found on the other side of the world.

Paying attention to your local environment and what lives within it can help you tune into your surroundings and appreciate them in a way you may not have thought possible.

Spend time in your garden, a local park or any outside space. Sit, wait, watch and listen. You’ll be amazed how much wildlife is actually all around you on a daily basis. Use these familiar subjects to practice your composition, exposure and understanding of how to adapt to the light.

What are your favourite animals to photograph?

I always feel like it’s a slight deflection of the question when I answer this but in truth, I’m far more interested in the mood, drama or visual appeal of the photo than I am the subject within it.

That being said, I’ve always favoured mammals over birds although I must admit I’d never turn down the opportunity to photograph an owl or raptor of some sort.

I have a really strong desire to visit Alaska and photograph the bears out there, so finding the right opportunity to do that is definitely high on the list.

What have you been up to since the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 competition?

A year on and I’ve been keeping very busy indeed. I’ve been co-hosting workshops in Greece, Skomer Island and Africa, as well as running one-to-one tuition days, hosted talks ranging from the Natural History Museum to The Photography Show and, a career highlight, was asked to join Nikon UK’s Ambassador programme. I’ve also been building up a relationship with the Surrey Wildlife Trust over the year and hope to do some more work with them in due course, which would be great as it means working more in my local county. I was also asked to be one of the contributing photographers for the Born Free Foundations' Remembering Elephants book project, aimed at raising awareness and funds for elephant conservation. Then, of course, the garden has also continued to repay me for my efforts with four other images going on to be awarded in various competitions. More recently, I’ve been planning an exhibition in collaboration with the WWF-UK. It’s been an enjoyable and busy year!

Running from Monday 28 November - Friday 2 December, my exhibition Art in Nature, from Surrey to Africa is open with free admission at the home of the WWF-UK, the Living Planet Centre, in Woking, Surrey. Furthermore, I’ll be holding a talk at the same venue on Wednesday 30th.

  • Lioness, 'Lioness',  Richard Peters
    'Lioness',  Richard Peters

See more of Richard's work on his website and see his winning photograph, 'Shadow Walker', on display at the Horniman from 26 November 2016 - 15 January 2017. 

Send us photos of your local wildlife on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #horniman

Life after death: about ethical taxidermy

Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy’ is currently on display in our Natural History Gallery. Here, ethical taxidermist and artist, Jazmine Miles-Long, tells us about the process of taxidermy.

  • About ethical taxidermy, Jazmine Miles-Long painting a taxidermy stoat ,  Ali Graham
    Jazmine Miles-Long painting a taxidermy stoat ,  Ali Graham

How do you create taxidermy?

Taxidermy involves a lot of processes and skills. The first thing that must be done is to collect all of the details about the specimen – how, when and where it died. There are many laws to protect wildlife in the UK that taxidermists must adhere to. So it is important to check if the species you are working with needs specific legal paperwork.

Then comes the skinning, which I think many presume will be very messy but it’s not that bad. Underneath the skin is a membrane that acts like a second skin keeping the body together in one piece. Working carefully between these layers means the skin can be simply peeled away. If all goes well not much blood is actually present. If I am working on a mammal, the skin must be pickled and tanned in a similar process to leather. Whereas with birds, all of the fat must be cleaned away from the feather tracts where the quills poke through on the inside of the skin.

Then the form replacing the muscular structure of the animal has to be created using measurements taken from the actual animal's body to recreate the same shape and size. Taxidermists use a variety of materials to make this form, I use carved balsa wood for birds and a bind-up for the mammals. A bind-up is made by wrapping wood-wool (fine, soft wood-shavings, typically used as a packing material) tightly around wire using cotton thread to hold the structure together. In both birds and mammals the skull is cleaned and used within the head. Some of the wing and leg bones are kept attached to the bird skin with all the flesh cleaned away.

The skin is then mounted onto the form, the facial expression is sculpted under the skin often with clay and the eyes are made from glass or acrylic. Once the piece has dried, any skin not covered by fur or feathers loses its colour turning a dark yellow or grey. Such as around the eyes, within ears, on pads of the feet of mammals and legs and bills of birds. Finally the last stage is to paint these areas using acrylic paints. 

See a video of this process below. Please be aware that this video shows scenes of animals being skinned and flesh being removed from bones.

How long will an artwork take to complete from start to finish?

It depends on the size and type of the animal. For instance larger mammals take longer as there is simply more body to build and skin to sew, also a longer time is needed to pickle a larger skin and for the piece to then dry once finished. On the other hand a smaller specimen such as a tiny bird, needs a far more delicate approach working slowly so not to rip the skin. I would work on a larger mammal over the period of a month while the skin pickles and dries. And although I can complete a small bird in one day, I prefer to break up the stages over a few days so I can take my time and get the piece right. Alongside making the taxidermy I create the cases and groundwork to accompany them and often will be working on several pieces at once.

Do you have to know a lot about zoology and natural history?

To be a good taxidermist you must have a keen love of animals and the natural world to understand the way they live and move. I did not study Zoology or Natural History but have always been fascinated by nature and learnt a lot through physically making taxidermy. I have discovered so much about the individuality of species through working closely with the animals in a way I’m not sure I could have from a distance.

How did you get into Taxidermy as a career?

When I finished university in 2007 I wanted to work in museum conservation and so volunteered at the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton. While I was there my focus turned to the taxidermy and I decided to give it go with the help of the museum's Curator. After that I wanted to be a taxidermist and spent the years that followed practicing and learning about the craft. I now work with the Booth Museum often and am grateful that they helped point me in the direction I have taken. Museums are amazing places that can truly inspire.

'Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy' is on display from 22 October 2016 to 1 May 2017.

Avian Forms: the artistic process

Artist Jane Edden tells us how she created the artwork in her Avian Forms exhibition.

Where do you get the feathers from to make your artwork?

I only use feathers that are by-products of food – chicken, pheasant, guinea fowl, and pigeon – the feathers that would normally get thrown away.

Pigeons have the most beautiful feathers, but no one would think of them as beautiful – especially in London where they look a bit scruffy. Some pheasant neck feathers are that iridescent blue you get on butterflies – it is absolutely incredible, but these feathers just get plucked and thrown away when the birds are prepared for cooking.

Tell us about the process of making your Flying Jackets.

  • About the Art: Jane Edden, 09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. 
Bird feathers and resin in perspex case
− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. Bird feathers and resin in perspex case

I get my feathers directly from the butchers before they are discarded, that way I can keep them in order and label them as I go. I can then recreate them as accurately as possible. I then freeze them to de-bug them in much the same way that museums freeze objects. So my freezer can sometimes be full of feathers.

The Flying Jackets are tiny. I only use the tip of the feathers. It is very intricate work so if I am sitting in my studio and anyone opens the door too fast and creates a gust, I get very frustrated!

I then make a little resin human form and start laying on a fringe of feathers from the bottom upwards. After that I use dental drills to drill the resin at the neck so you don’t ever see it. I try and create that perfect bird form, however, you can never lay the feathers on as beautifully as they are in nature – it is an impossibility.

How did you capture the Swan Arm photographs?

  • Avian Forms: the artistic process, 'Left Elbow' by Jane Edden− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    'Left Elbow' by Jane Edden

The Swam Arms are photographs of swans grooming from above. What I did was feed the swans so that they were all full and happy, and once they are full they start grooming. I would go every day so they got used to me, and then I would go and photograph them from above standing on a bridge.

But to me the Swan Arms look like a person putting on a coat – the way your arm twists around when you reach back to insert your arm into a sleeve. And when you see that arm in the photograph, you can’t see anything else.

I am interested in the human-bird cross over and also myths throughout history. There are so many examples of birds turning into humans and visa-versa across cultures, such as Swan Lake.

What about the Icarus Birds? How did those images get made?

  • Avian Forms: the artistic process, 'Lift Off' by Jane Edden− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    'Lift Off' by Jane Edden

I found a very skeletal bird which had died and fallen down my cousin’s chimney. I took the bird to the vets because they have a digital x-ray machine there. We then produced the digital images that I used by placing the bird skeleton in different positions.

I drew a lot of inspiration from the comparative anatomy drawings of Pierre Belon where he compares the human skeleton to that of a bird skeleton. I think it is very strange how human the bird skeleton looks – although they are more related to dinosaurs than humans.

I then added wires - linking the elbow to the foot as if it was going to pull the wing, which made it look even more human.

Cartilage doesn’t show up on x-rays very much so you get a slight shadow where the feathers would have been but not much more than that. So I added the feathers – which is where the artworks’ name Icarus Birds came in, because it gives the idea of strapping on feathers – a human able to fly.

See Avian Forms on display in the Natural History Gallery until the 9 October 2016.

About the Art: Jane Edden

We interviewed artist Jane Edden to hear more about the Flying Jacket artworks in her new Avian Forms exhibition now on display in the Natural History Gallery. 

  • About the Art: Jane Edden, 09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. 
Bird feathers and resin in perspex case
− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. Bird feathers and resin in perspex case

What inspired the pieces in this exhibition?

I am fascinated by the way people collect, categorise, name and order objects in museums. Especially in the Victorian era.

I am also interested in the human obsession with flight.

Because of the interest in flight and categorisation I decided to look at stuffed birds, and especially small stuffed birds. When you look at a hummingbird, it looks impossible and too beautiful to exist. There is an almost fake look to them. I was trying to recreate that feeling of something so small and so perfect – and then introduce all the ideas about flight.

  • About the Art: Jane Edden, 046 Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, 2015
Bird feathers and resin in perspex case
− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    046 Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, 2015 Bird feathers and resin in perspex case

The Flying Jackets are beautiful – tell us more about those.

Humans are drawn to birds and feathers and flight and I think there is something innately human about wearing feathers. You go to a wedding and people have feathers stuck on their heads and it is the same in Papua New Guinea or Peru. People all over the world wear feathers on hats or coats or on other items of clothing and decoration. Even if you go for a walk in the park - you pick up a feather, twiddle it around and stick it in your button hole – it is just something that we do.

With the Flying Jackets, it was also about them being miniature. If you look at a dolls house you can imagine yourself in the house - you are able to move yourself into that space and imagine what it is like. Many people say with the Flying Jackets, ‘I would like one in my size’ but I think if I made one in life-size it wouldn’t have the same impact at all. Their size allows you to step out of where you are and into your imagination – and that is what interests me.

Some of the Flying Jackets are named after aeroplanes that are themselves named after birds, for example, Osprey. Some of the Flying Jackets are also named after Native Americans, who in turn wore feathers in their headdresses. I like the way by categorising them with these names, it brings the ideas of interaction between humans and birds full circle.  

See Avian Forms in the Natural History Gallery from 25 June - 9 October 2016. 

Travellers' tails

Inspired by the Travellers' Tails project, we asked our visitors, 'Where would you like to explore?'

Since March, our Natural History Gallery has been home to the Travellers' Tails display. This display brings together the first European painting of an Australian animal, 'The Kongouro from New Holland' by George Stubbs, alongside the Horniman's taxidermy mount of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo and describes Captain's Cook's first voyage to the Pacific, where he encountered new landscapes, people, plants and animals. 

The Travellers' Tails project is a collaboration between five museums investigating the history of exploration, art and science. It brings together artists, scientists, explorers and museum professionals to investigate the nature of exploration in the Enlightenment era, how the multitude of histories can be explored and experienced in a gallery, heritage and museum setting, and to question what exploration means today.

Inspired by Travellers' Tails, we asked our visitors and our online audience to share their thoughts on exploration. The four questions we asked were: Where would you like to explore? What is left to explore? Exploration is... and My favourite explorer is...

We recieved some interesting answers. Some wanted to explore places they had never been to before. 

Some wanted to travel to hot countries, and some to cold. 

Some people wanted to go back in time to explore earth when the dinosaurs were alive. 

Many people suggested that still left to explore was the deepest oceans and outer space. 

Have you got a burning desire to explore somewhere? Who is your favourite explorer? Tweet us with the hashtag #TravellersTails to share your stories. 

Introducing Favela: joy and pain in the city

Our current photography exhibition, Favela: joy and pain in the city, is a collaboration with the Observatory of the Favelas – a social organisation based in Maré, the largest complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

Jailson de Souza e Silva, Founder and Director of the Observatory of the Favelas, spoke to us about the three photographers who trained with the Observatory of the Favelas and are exhibiting here this summer.

When thinking about peripheral spaces, such as favelas, there are many prejudices. They are seen as places characterised by absence and deprivation deficient in decent facilities, services, order, education, culture and civic values. They are believed to be lawless and overrun by violence, representing the height of urban chaos.

These photographs allow us to judge favelas according to what they actually have: intense joy, pain, life, death, respect, violence, struggle, celebration, games, play, work, intimacy, complicity, complexity, simplicity and sociability among many other expressions of life.

  • Introducing Favela: joy and pain in the city, Leisure Day on the Avenida Brasil, the biggest avenue in Brazil., Elisângela Leite
    Leisure Day on the Avenida Brasil, the biggest avenue in Brazil., Elisângela Leite

Bira Carvalho, Elisângela Leite and AF (Adriano) Rodrigues all come from the favela of Maré – an important point of reference in their artistic work. They are all members of a vast contingent of young people from favelas and the peripheries of Brazil who refuse to be categorised as the “beneficiaries of social projects”, or mere documenters of their own daily lives.

We train the photographers to have excellent technique and an anthropological outlook. This seeks to recognise life where many see only death, invention where many see only deficit, beauty where many see only aesthetic compromise, and violence where many see only the inequality that has been normalised by the social system.

  • Introducing Favela: joy and pain in the city, Panoramic view of the Alemão favela complex from a cable car., AF Rodrigues
    Panoramic view of the Alemão favela complex from a cable car., AF Rodrigues

The work of these photographers allows the fluidity, richness and density of the life that is present in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas – and in all peripheral communities the world over – flow past your eyes.

Every day, by exercising their profession and their art, they show people can reinvent themselves, no matter where they come from or where they live. Because, for the person who sets out to find it, the world is never too far away, and life is never small.

  • Introducing Favela: joy and pain in the city, A boy and the Sugarloaf Mountain. View from Morro dos Prazeres, South Zone of Rio., Elisângela Leite
    A boy and the Sugarloaf Mountain. View from Morro dos Prazeres, South Zone of Rio., Elisângela Leite

“Favela: Joy and pain in the city” is realised through a partnership between The Horniman Museum and Gardens, Observatório de Favelas and People’s Palace Projects.

The Art of Islam

Objects from the Horniman's collection are on display now in a new major exhibition at Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury.

The exhibition, running from March 26 until September 24 2016, is part of the Art of Islam Festival and reflects Islamic culture and its links with Western Europe, 

Treasures on display will include carpets, paintings, furniture, metalwork, jewellery and splendid calligraphy from across the Middle East.

Among the objects from the Horniman's collection are this ewer, seal and baby cover.

 

This Bidri ware ewer is from India and dates from the late 19th century, when it was sold to Frederick Horniman.

 

This seal, dating from 1776, is engraved in Persian with a floral border. It belonged to James Peter Auriol of the Bengal civil service, who was secretary to the government of Warren Hastings in India in the late 18th century.

This cover from Sumatra is placed on the forehead of a baby (along with another cover for the baby's body) when visitors come to see it during the first forty days of life.

In addition to the Horniman's collection, exhibits will also be borrowed from the British Museum, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and from the private collection of Razwan and Sarya Baig.

About the art: Here, Now

Our current exhibition Here, Now is a collaborative project delivered in partnership with photographer Nana Varveropoulou and Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers.

Nana spent four months working alongside ten newly arrived migrants in the local area to produce a series of portraits. In this blog, we ask her about the story behind this portrait.

How did you approach this project?

The first step was to spend several days at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers, so that people got to know me and start to feel comfortable. I spent the first whole day approaching people, showing them examples of pictures and discussing the project idea.

Some people seemed interested, but most of them were understandably pre-occupied with their lives, their papers, their circumstances.

How did this particular photograph come about?

One day, I was waiting at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers to meet another project participant. While waiting, I approached this man.

OS didn't speak English, but luckily one of the many volunteers at the centre offered to help with translating. While we tried to work out a theme and a location for his portraits, he received a phone call from his caseworker who informed him that he was being moved to Scotland with immediate effect.

We were all slightly shocked - particularly OS. He kindly got back to me and told the interpreter, if you want to photograph me, you better do it here and now. I doubt that I will be here next week.

What was his reaction to this? 

He didn't seem angry or upset. He looked more resigned to the fact that he had no choice.

I asked him if he wanted to move and he said no, he didn't know anyone in Scotland. I realised that he was right - we had to do his portrait on the spot.

His experience really captures part of the reality of being an asylum seeker.

We looked around the centre to find the right spot for the portrait and came across a "Welcome" sign, which I found quite ironic. We took the portrait there.

Here, Now is on display at the Horniman until 6 June 2016.

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