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Station Squabble

A week overnight in the London Underground system, receiving “many strange looks from commuters”, as he had to lie on various station platforms with his camera. The result is Station Squabble, a digital photograph taken by Sam Rowley, depicting two mice fighting over a crumb they found simultaneously. The picture won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year — 2020. The Director of the London museum described the picture as showing “a fascinating glimpse into how wildlife functions in a human-dominated environment.”

According to LessonStream community’s founder Jamie Keddie, Sam Rowley’s photograph goes against the norm: we expect subjects to fill the frame and dominate the composition. In this case, however, our eyes have to work to find the mice and work out what’s going on. And when they do so, the payoff is the delightful impact that comes from the originality of the image.

The results of an experiment that Keddie shared in the Lessonstream Membership, about the photo, were very interesting. First of all, there was a divergence of ideas relating to the location. Some students decided that it was a science laboratory. There were also museums, halls, factories and a hospital. There was also a lack of agreement about the subject. But, most notably, there was a lot of variation in narrative. Students decided or speculated that the mice were doing any and all of the following: Fighting, helping each other, proposing — “Will you marry me?” —, looking for cheese, dancing, mating.

Despite the success of his photograph, Sam seemed to speak with just a little bit of regret at the fact people tend to see it as cute or whimsical.

“We have created this dark and hostile underground network of tunnels. These creatures survive in a world that should be have been alien to them. They are strangers to sun, grass, day and night. And they are completely reliant on us. This is an image of desperation and what desperation drives us to do. And now, during this time of social distancing and lockdown, conditions for these animals must be nothing less than apocalyptic.”

To create the image, Rowley used a Nikon D500 with a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG lens — 1/125 seconds at f2.8 and ISO 1000.

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