WASHINGTON (Jan. 13, 2006)–An exhibition of stunning images of rare plants and animals of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, made by legendary fine-art photographers and award-winning environmentalists David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton, will be held at the National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall from Jan. 25 to May 29.
“ARCHIPELAGO: Portraits of Life in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands” will showcase more than 60 photographs that illustrate the spectacular diversity of the marine and terrestrial life of the world’s most remote island sanctuary. The 10 Leeward or Northwestern Hawaiian Islands extend northwest of Kaua’i and are smaller and geologically older than the five main Hawaiian islands. Comprising only one-tenth of 1 percent of the Hawaiian archipelago’s land area, yet extending for two-thirds of the length of the chain, they provide refuge for vibrant natural communities, including monk seals, sea turtles, vast numbers of nesting seabirds, plants and insects.
Liittschwager and Middleton gained unprecedented access to photograph on and around this protected chain of islands and atolls that is off-limits to almost everyone except researchers. Home to nearly 70 percent of our nation’s coral reefs and known as the “rain forests of the sea,” the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands host a remarkable ecosystem that supports a vast array of interdependent plants and animals that have evolved in this pristine habitat over millions of years, many existing nowhere else on the planet.
Each captivating portrait reveals the unique character of the flora and fauna of this far-flung archipelago, and their names are as exotic as their subtropical home — Triton’s trumpet, blue dragon nudibranch, thornback cowfish, redbanded hawkfish, jeweled anemone crab, crowned jellyfish.
To capture the individuality of each subject, the photographers depict them in sharp relief against neutral backdrops. Visually isolating each animal and plant in this way reveals fine detail and expression and creates an intimate encounter between subject and viewer.
“The exhibit offers a window to the sublime beauty of one of the nation’s richest natural treasures, allowing us to see and experience the inhabitants of this critical wildlife refuge. The exhibit creates awareness and appreciation of the area, which is vital to its future protection,” said Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall.
The photographs in the exhibit appear in the recently published National Geographic book “Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World’s Most Remote Island Sanctuary” (October 2005).
Liittschwager and Middleton have been photographing animals and plants since 1986. They collaborated on another National Geographic book, “Remains of a Rainbow: Rare Plants and Animals of Hawai’i” (2001), and their work was the subject of a 1997 Emmy Award-winning National Geographic television documentary, “America’s Endangered Species: Don’t Say Goodbye.” They were joint recipients of a Bay & Paul Foundations Biodiversity Leadership Award. Their photographs have been exhibited and published throughout the world, both in fine-art and natural-history contexts. Liittschwager and Middleton live in San Francisco.
The National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall, 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Dec. 25. Admission is free. For information on the “Archipelago” exhibit, the public should call (202) 857-7588 or visit nationalgeographic.com/museum.