Founded in 2009, Meet Your Neighbours™ is a worldwide photographic initiative created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt. The project is dedicated to reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps – and enriching their lives in the process. These creatures and plants are vital to people: they represent the first, and for some, the only contact with wild nature we have. Yet too often they are overlooked, undervalued.
How does Meet Your Neighbours make this reconnection? Through producing inspiring imagery – the sort of pictures that make the viewer think, ‘I’ve got to see this for myself!” And then we encourage people to “meet their neighbours” through their own cameras.
Meet Your Neighbours images have an instantly recognizable look. Each subject is photographed on location in a field studio. A brilliantly-lit white background removes the context, encouraging appreciation of the subject as an individual rather than a species. Their own form constitutes the composition. Seen this way, animals and plants we thought we knew reveal another side of themselves, encourage a second glance, perhaps even renewed interest.
The initiative engages photographers from around the world to celebrate these animals and ask people in their communities to “go meet your neighbours”. Some have partnered with local conservation NGO’s who support their work and, by using it as part of their outreach effort, ensure that it is seen. Others shoot independently and contribute their work on a profit-sharing basis to the branded Meet Your Neighbours collection with Bristol, UK, -based Nature Picture Library. New photographers join the initiative every month and we are especially keen to hear from photographers working in the tropics and “under-exposed” regions. Our aim? – to build coverage of neighbourhood” wildlife, especially overlooked plants and animals, from around the world, all shot to the Meet Your Neighbours standard.
This is conservation photography at the grass roots level, asking people to care about their own natural heritage, where they live and showing them how extraordinary it is in a novel way.
If you are tempted to ask “Well, why do we need orchids or salamanders, woodlice or bullfrogs anyway?” you may as well ask, “why do we need children, friends, community?” We can live without all these things but our lives are much the poorer if we do so.
Meet Your Neighbours now has over 50 participating photographers from all over the world. Broadcaster and writer, Mark Carwardine, commented, “Meet Your Neighbours started with little more than a couple of pieces of plastic, but has quickly grown into a worldwide collaborative project. The message is as simple as the way each animal and plant is photographed: we must value today’s common species so they don’t become tomorrow’s endangered ones. I can’t think of any other photographic project that captures the imagination in quite the same way.”