If the more than 100 submissions to the We Are AWARE: Nature Photo Exhibit are any indication, local photographers have their lenses pointed in a variety of directions.
“We got a huge range,” says Claire Ruddy, executive director of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE). “Everything from wildlife pictures—taken from a safe distance—to landscape shots to pictures with people paying attention to the small things around them like mushrooms and fungus.”
An equally diverse jury of biologists and photographers whittled down those entries—which could be from any time, but had to be within 75 kilometres of Whistler— down to more than 60. Those images are now on display at The Gallery at The Maury Young Arts Centre until Dec. 23.
While there were some photographers who self-identified as professional in their submissions, the majority are amateurs and mostly from around Whistler.
“We’ve got a couple of uniquely appreciated images that are getting prizes—either because of what’s contained in the picture [or] how it stands out to local biologists and scientists on the panel—and then also ones that were voted top three by photographers,” Ruddy says.
The exhibit will kick off with a free art party on Friday, Nov. 18—open to the public— with appetizers, live music, and drinks.
The photos, which will all be for sale, are also accompanied by information on eco-stewardship, in keeping with AWARE’s mission.
“It’s a chance for people to see the amazing images, but also think about the steps for taking care of nature and broader issues like climate change,” Ruddy says.
“And it’s an awesome opportunity for people to pick up gifts inspired by nature.”
AWARE had started talks with Arts Whistler pre-COVID about combining nature and art for a project.
“Nature and humanity are so intertwined, and art is one of the unique human ways to celebrate that connection,” Ruddy adds. “On our end, we know when people love something they’ll do more to protect it. The synergy between art and nature has always been obvious. It’s just about finding the right project.”
If you missed out on submitting this year, don’t worry. With so much interest, Ruddy said it’s possible the contest could return.
“It’s been really good to get the volume of submissions we got this year,” she says. “We would love to look at ways to make this an annual event, but think about ways to keep it fresh. We see a ton of value in spreading this message of ‘Take only photos and leave only footprints.’ The thing with messages is they often need to be repeated.”
We Are AWARE: Nature Photo Exhibit runs until Dec. 23 at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Catch the opening party on Nov. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information or to RSVP, visit the “We Are Aware: Nature Photo Exhibit Art Party” Facebook page.