Sea Lion © Jill Pakenham

The Blue-footed Booby And Friends

7th August 2009

Jill Glenn reviews Galapagos, a series of photographs by Jill Pakenham, currently on show at The Natural History Museum at Tring.

The influence of the Galapagos Islands on the theories of Charles Darwin is well-known. He stayed for only five weeks, in fact, but his observations there led him to question ‘the stability of species’, an insight that led on to the idea of evolution by natural selection. Jill Pakenham stayed only a few days, but her stunning photographs beautifully capture the distinctive landscapes and exotic wildlife of this wonder of the natural world. These are not your average holiday snaps.

Jill’s connection with the Natural History Museum runs deep. Her father was Keeper of Entomology at NHM London, and also Supervisor of NHM Tring during the 1970s. Jill herself has volunteered for the Tring branch for the last 8 years, so it’s very appropriate to have her photographs on show here, in a building that also houses many of the bird specimens collected by Darwin on that 1835 visit.

It’s a low key exhibition, of some 25 pictures, but no less enjoyable for that. Each one is accompanied by a description, including a note of the location, and a pleasing little nugget of information, in keeping with the NHM’s mission to educate. The words beneath the Sally Lightfoot image, for example, tell us that the crab is thought to have been named after a Caribbean dancer; those with the Booby that the name derives from the Spanish bobo, meaning ‘stupid’ or ‘clown’; those with a delightful picture of a Fur Seal that it has extremely dense underfur, with approximately 300,000 hairs per square inch.

Jill observes that restrictions, designed to protect a fragile environment, made photography difficult. You wouldn’t know it. With one camera (a Canon EOS 40D), two zoom lenses and a macro lens, she has created a superb window on to a very particular world.

Visitors can also hear Jill speak about her Galapagos travels in a special illustrated talk at the Museum on 17 September.

Pictures © Jill Pakenham

Jill’s Galapagos pictures can be seen at the Natural History Museum at Tring, until 31 August. Admission free. See www.nhm.ac.uk/tring or call 020 7942 6171 for details.

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