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Iconic NW Wildlife Up Close and Personal

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

- Written by Sally Vermillion, SPACE Volunteer

Ever wondered what a bison’s wind-weary shaggy mane or water repellant otter fur feels like? Step into the SPACE Gallery for our new exhibit, Winter Northwest, by fine art wildlife photographer Mukul Soman, and you’ll be in for a sensory treat! Stand in the gallery space and you will be surrounded by large scale prints of coyote, eagle, fox, and owl, each pulling you into their world. Soman’s spare compositions serve to highlight each creatures’ realism in gorgeously rich detail - a curled tongue extending from a snow-encrusted bison’s muzzle, the burnished copper feather pattern of a Wilson’s snipe, each distinct spiky whisker of a red fox facing a wind gust, a coyote’s steady calculating gaze.There is levity amidst the gravitas in Soman’s wildlife vision as his lens captures his animal subjects in the course of their wintry lives. The photos at the Magnuson Gallery are a culmination of years of work. They represent the work of a lifetime, a combination of learning and experiences in the field, and speak to the deep love and respect Mukul has for the natural world.

As a child growing up in Southern India where the naturally rich and diverse tropical environment around Kerala abounds with rivers, lakes, ocean, forest, rainforest, and mountains, Mukul was surrounded by birds and animals. He remembers being fascinated by his mother’s zoology sketchbooks, studying her intricate pencil sketches of fish, birds, insects and mammals. Spending time at his school library pouring over National Geographics magazines Mukul connected his love of nature with the artistic expressiveness of wildlife photography. Along with these early inspirations was a father who encouraged Mukul on his journey towards a career in art. Equally significant to his aesthetic vision is his admiration for the work of Nat Geo photographers Paul Nicklen and Brian Skerry, as well as the work of Brazilian social documentary photographer, Sebastiao Salgado. Closer to home, Mukul credits his wife, Mary Dee, for her deeply constructive critique as a fellow artist and Alejandro Thomas, Seattle Central Community College photography professor, with his generous support, encouragement and caring guidance. When I asked Mukul to turn the tables and offer some advice to those undertaking this challenging field of photography, he shared how much he enjoys experiencing nature and being out in the field as a gatherer, less as a hunter, of the perfect photographic moment.

Part of the narrative behind Mukul’s photographs on exhibit highlights the physically and technically demanding aspect of capturing animals in the wild. You imagine patient hours, alone in the freezing cold temperatures of the greater Yellowstone region, waiting for nature to gift him a rare opportunity, waiting to receive the special moment. Mukul’s art process has brought him close to the importance of environmental conservation and habitat preservation. He urges respect for the wilderness and care with our actions in nature, whether we are photographing animals or entering it for our enjoyment. To hear more about Mukul Soman’s photographic philosophy, you are invited to the Artist Reception on Saturday, April 9th from 5pm - 8pm.

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