THE RECENT US Embassy-organized photo exhibit of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) World Heritage Sites, by renowned landscape photographer Tom Till, at the SM Mall of Asia gave the public a visually colorful and educational tour of natural and manmade landmarks around the world.

Unesco World Heritage sites are places that have been deemed as having outstanding universal value. These are classified as either a cultural site (man-made places that may showcase human genius or an example of human settlements that have withstood time) or a natural site (natural wonders that represent ongoing ecological or biological processes in nature).

Pictures of some 20 world heritage sites from various countries were shown in the exhibit, all of which were taken through a 4×5 or large camera format. Each photo showed each landscape’s uniqueness. The subtext of the exhibit is the need to protect and conserve the landmarks.

“World Heritage sites can be unique because there is a little bit of mystery in (them),” said US Ambassador Kristie Kenney. “Or they can be an engineering marvel like the rice terraces of Banawe.”

Included in the exhibit were pictures of well-known landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and India’s Taj Mahal.

“The exhibit is a mixture of different sights,” Kenney said. “It is a really wonderful sort of mélange—from oceans to old buildings and new towns.”

Serenity

A picture of the West Norweigian Fjord, which Till took from a 45-degree angle under good natural lighting, gives one the feeling of serenity. The lush pine forest on the steep slopes and the sapphire blue river makes it look almost untouched by civilization.

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Even the Banawe Terraces seem different through Till’s eyes. Formally included to the World Heritage list in 2001, the terraces face dangers such as giant earthworms that have loosened the earth, the appropriation of certain spaces for residences and the refusal of newer generations to continue with the centuries-old tradition of agriculture.

The exhibit also introduces viewers to lesser-known sites such as the Giant’s Causeway in the United Kingdom, the sand dunes of Turkey and the Cliff Palace of Colorado.

The exhibit also appeals to the curiosity of the audience with photos of heritage sites placed in unusual terrain, such as the archeological wonders of Petra in Jordan and the Nubian monuments of Egypt.

In Jordan’s Petra, Till took a photo highlight of the city’s famous limestone Monastery. One section of the photograph in particular has a wavy pattern that makes it look like a surreal set of violet curves.

Also a sight to behold is the Grand Prismatic Spring in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, the largest hot spring in the United States. Like Petra, it bears an otherworldly quality. The color of the spring changes from indigo to brownish red due to temperature-sensitive algae. The photo was taken from the air, showing the spring with its yellow-orange tributaries radiating from the lake. What makes this picture unique is that there is no steam billowing from the water.

Protection through awareness

Kenney said that the photographs are not just eye candies; they are also tools for awareness. Though many of the sites are still stable or reinforced, it is without doubt that there are some that are in urgent need of protection.

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“The idea (of the exhibit) is to appeal to everybody. Ideally, you would inspire people to know more about these natural wonders and that should give you a lot of pride,” Kenney said. “From that, the need to protect and preserve it follows.”

“It is really more of raising awareness and building national pride,” she added.

“We are intrigued by the rest of the world, and ideally we are moved to protect and know more about these natural wonders,” Kenney said. “It inspires us to go out and see.” Alphonsus Luigi E. Alfonso and James C. Talon

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