Project Description


Lions & Tigers and Bears: Through the Lens with National Geographic

November 14, 2014 through January 4, 2015

Lions are universally recognized as symbols of royalty and courage, but there is much more to know and appreciate about these big cats than their regal appearance or position on the food chain. Spending more than two years in the field, Michael “Nick” Nichols captured images that offer revealing insights into the day-to-day lives of these African predators. Using cutting-edge technology including infrared cameras, a mini-tank robot, and micro-copters, Nichols took more than a million photos documenting lions hunting, mating, fighting and, most remarkably, socializing. The photos in the exhibition (as well as in the August 2013 National Geographic magazine feature story “The Short Happy Life of the Serengeti Lion”) represent the best of Nichols’ two years in the Serengeti. This assignment is the latest in Nichols’ nearly-20-year career with National Geographic. He has spent more than half of his life photographing African animals and has produced 27 stories for National Geographic magazine.

The largest of the Asian big cats, tigers are a popular subject of wildlife photography, particularly as they hover on the brink of extinction. The exhibition features some of the most stunning images of these revered animals, captured by award-winning National Geographic photographer and big-cat advocate Steve Winter. Over the last decade, Winter has traveled to India, Sumatra, and Thailand to chronicle the lives of tigers. The result is millions of captivating photos of tigers in their natural habitats as they stalk, eat, wade, rest and groom. Winter’s images also capture the threats to tiger survival, including poachers, loggers and nearby human populations that hunt tigers’ prey, leaving them without food. The photos in the exhibition as well as Winter’s book, TIGERS FOREVER: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cats, aim to shed light on these threats and to further conservation efforts.

The exhibition’s striking images of different species of bears are by award-winning photojournalist Paul Nicklen. Well known for his photographs of polar bears and other denizens of the Arctic, Nicklen has recently turned his lens on other bears — black, grizzly and the rare spirit bears that were the subject of his August 2011 National Geographic magazine cover story. His photographs of these massive animals display both their strength and their vulnerability. These are not fearsome predators inclined to attack humans; they’re smart, sensitive creatures striving to survive as their habitats disappear. Nicklen has published 11 stories for National Geographic magazine, and his books Polar Obsession and BEAR: Spirit of the Wild were both published by National Geographic Books.

In addition to the photographs, the exhibition will include natural immersive vignettes featuring science specimens of animals critical to the ecosystems where these apex predators make their homes. The vignettes will include pieces from the collections of the New York State Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and the Springfield Science Museum. Art and cultural objects from the Berkshire Museum’s collections, including ceramics, Chinese imperial lions, Roman bronze pieces, Native American jewelry and ceremonial instruments, and 20th-century sculpture, will also demonstrate the impact that these animals have had on us, as they capture our creative imaginations.