Pollak Gallery Gets ‘WILD’ Photography

Pollak Wild Photography 1The “WILD” Nature Photography exhibit offers visitors a glimpse into some of the most intimate moments of wild creatures, including polar bears, grizzlies, birds of prey, and much more.  The exhibition, curated by photographer and New Jersey resident Eric Sambol, will be on display in Pollak Gallery until Friday Sept. 30.  The gallery is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 7 pm, and is free and open to the public.

The exhibit features wildlife from four distinct areas in New Jersey, Alaska, Manitoba, and British Columbia, and portrays various species in stunning closeness. 

Sambol’s photography brings viewers up close and personal with bear cubs during moments of innocent playtime, and allows people to lock eyes with some of the country’s most powerful birds of prey, including osprey, owls, and bald eagles.

While some of the subjects are from Alaska and Canada, many are creatures that can be found right here in New Jersey. “People don’t understand the amazing diversity of NJ’s wildlife,” Sambol said, who has fond memories of exploring the forests of Toms River as a child in search of animals.  “For many, there is this perception that NJ is a completely developed place where wildlife doesn’t exist.”

Of course, NJ is full of wild creatures, and Sambol’s exhibit illustrates them in a way surely many residents have not seen before.  According to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve rare and imperiled species, there are some 107 threatened or endangered species within the state, including eight amphibians, 52 birds, 19 invertebrates, 11 mammals, 16 reptiles, and one species of fish. 

Sambol began working with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ nearly six years ago when a pair of bald eagles made a nest on his property, and the group came to band and monitor the pair and their offspring. 

Sambol is donating a portion of the exhibit’s proceeds to Conserve Wildlife NJ, and calls director Margaret O’Gormon one of the main inspiration for the exhibit.

Sambol hopes his exhibit will rouse in visitors an appreciation for nature and the wildlife that share the planet with us. “They all serve a purpose; there’s a reason they are here, but people take it for granted.  For example, when people overfish, overhunt, or clear vulnerable habitats for construction.  When we do this, we destroy the balance,” Sambol said. 

However, one does not need to have a scientist’s ecological point of view to appreciate wildlife. When Sambol discussed one of his favorite subjects, raptors and birds of prey, he described some things that have nothing to do with science, but rather, with looking at animals as individual, sentient beings.

Pollak Wild Photography 2“Birds of prey are highly intelligent, loyal, and hardworking.  They are caring parents, and they mate for life,” Sambol explained.  “In many ways, they share qualities that we, as humans, admire in others.” Perhaps this may be a bit anthropomorphic, but one can almost sense these characteristics when looking at Sambol’s gallery; it is nearly impossible to see these photographs and deny their existence. 

Regardless of the emotional lives of animals, the wellbeing of wildlife is important to our own.  “We can’t take wildlife for granted. Without it, we are incomplete as a planet,” Sambol said, who is a true believer in finding a balance between humans’ way of living and the ecosystem.  “There is no reason, with thoughtful planning and careful utilization of our natural resources that we cannot coexist with wildlife and protect habitats.” 

In the end, Sambol is just a nature enthusiast with a passion for photography.  “The mere experience of photographing wildlife transports me to another world; it is the real reward,” Sambol said, calling the experience freeing and gratifying.  “It is simply an added bonus, the icing on the cake, when I capture the magnificence of the animal with which I can share with others.” 

The exhibit is cosponsored by the Urban Coast Institute.  Proceeds from the gallery will be donated to Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and the University Scholarship Fund. For more information on Eric Sambol, visit ericsambol.com.  

For more about NJ’s endangered species and the work being done to protect them, visit conservewildlifenj.org.

PHOTOS COURTESY of ericsambol.com