Photo Exhibit Brings Chilean Patagonia Into Sharper Focus for Country's Lawmakers

Stunning images show value of protecting the region’s lands, waters, wildlife

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Photo Exhibit Brings Chilean Patagonia Into Sharper Focus for Country's Lawmakers
Three people pause in a hallway to look at large photographs displayed on a row of easels and showing some of Chilean Patagonia’s striking landscapes and wildlife. The scenes include various flora and fauna and, in the most prominent image on view, snow-topped mountains with an inky blue bay at their foothills.
People view a photo exhibit in the halls of Chile’s Congress that features a wide array of images on 16 large poster boards. The image in the foreground is of Estero Coloane Bay on Isla Hoste, one of Chile’s southernmost islands, located in Alberto de Agostini National Park.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Chilean Patagonia is a region of stunning natural beauty—mountains, rivers, glaciers, ocean, bays, forests, and more—and conserving it all is vital to the future of local communities there. And although science can explain why such protection is necessary, vivid visuals can also show what’s at stake. That was the motivation behind a photo exhibit in the halls of Chile’s National Congress from May 9 through June 8, organized by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Chilean Patagonia team, Chile’s national forest service and protected areas agency (CONAF), and the Fundación Áreas Protegidas.

The exhibit—“Protected Areas: Chile’s Natural Heritage, Conservation, and Human Well-Being”— featured the work of seven photographers and highlighted how the protected areas are improving the lives of residents and visitors alike. The exhibit also carried an important message: that Chilean Patagonia is vulnerable to a range of threats and therefore requires effective management, along with robust and comprehensive legislation to add to existing safeguards.

Lawmakers and exhibit organizers attended the opening event May 9. Here are excerpts from their remarks.

Deputy Daniel Melo
The Pew Charitable Trusts

“It’s always good to see what we in Congress have fought for with conviction for years, such as protected areas and the protection of biodiversity. In these photos, there is citizenship, community, and organizations that work to ensure that this part of our country is adequately protected. Today in Congress we’re discussing creation of the long-awaited Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service, and these images remind us of the need to advance effective protection so that we can advance as a State and as a society.

“I hope that all of us in Congress understand the need to make progress in caring for the environment, to make concrete decisions to help us face the climate crisis, and to bequeath to future generations all this beauty, which is part of our environmental and natural heritage and should endure.”

Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber
The Pew Charitable Trusts

“We hope this photo exhibit helps us bring the protection of biodiversity closer to becoming a daily reality. Hundreds of people who work here are going to pass by and see this over many days. And the theme is extremely beautiful, covering various topics—from the oceans, Antarctica, and rivers to resilience. One photo shows a person in a wheelchair being able to access national parks. And another that really impressed me shows a young woman hugging an enormous tree. This is a new approach to talking about protecting biodiversity—not only focusing on how ecosystems are connected but also bringing the topic closer to the average citizen.”

Carolina Jarpa
Carolina Jarpa, officer, Pew’s Chilean Patagonia program
The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Today we’ve come to Congress with an exhibit that has brought together various national photographers to record the biodiversity of a remote, unique, and fragile area, showcasing Chilean Patagonia’s world-class natural heritage and inviting reflection and awareness about its relevance.

“The honorable members of the Chamber of Deputies will be able to enjoy this exhibit for 20 or so days—and in that time, we hope they’re inspired to find solutions to ensure the effective conservation of these fragile areas.”

Deputy José Miguel Castro
The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Walking through the halls of Congress and seeing what we’re often fighting for—caring for our natural world, our national heritage—encourages us to continue on our path. And I hope that those who are writing Chile’s new constitution also see these images, to help them realize why the environment must be included in the new constitution. The beautiful thing is that this exhibit shows our country not just to those of us who serve as legislators but also to everyone who passes through Congress each day.”

Felipe Zanotti
Felipe Zanotti, photographer. His works for the collection highlighted the Yelcho and Palena rivers in north Patagonia.
The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Rivers are important not only for their impressive scenic beauty but also for everything those waters carry: nutrients, sediments, voices, cultures, and stories. From the mountains to the sea, rivers should flow free and healthy. They are the essence of life. Through these photos, I wanted to be able to reach people who have not yet had the privilege of knowing these bodies of water.”

And here are some of the photos from the exhibit.

A poster board with three rectangular photos shows an owl with brilliant yellow eyes perched on a tree limb; a rocky bluff dotted with dark-green vegetation rising up from the sea; and a close-up of a fox, with gray and burnt-orange fur and dark amber eyes, looking into the camera.
An austral pygmy owl and a Darwin’s fox share the spotlight with a rocky bluff along the coast of Kawésqar National Park.
Nicolás Piwonka
An aerial shot shows a massive, blue-tinted glacier bordered by green mountains that flow down to the glassy, calm waters of a coastal cove.
A glacier-lined bay on one of South America’s southernmost islands, in Alberto de Agostini National Park, illustrates the grandeur of Chilean Patagonia.
Nicolás Piwonka
A humpback whale’s dorsal fin rises above the dark ocean water, creating choppy little waves in its wake in the foreground as a coastal mountain chain lies in shadow off in the distance.
Humpback whales are among the various cetacean species that live in Chilean Patagonia’s protected areas. In the summer, the whales head south in search of food.
Nicolás Piwonka
Four photos on a poster board show: a flower with long pink petals nestled among slender green leaves; a bright fuchsia plant with long, spiky stems secreting a sticky liquid; a plant with variegated short green leaves; and an image of a spiny yellow-orange caterpillar on a tree branch.
Though not as well-known as Patagonia’s expansive landscapes, the region’s unique plants and tiniest creatures—such as the bright pink coicopihue flower (left) and the yellow-and-orange-trimmed caterpillar (bottom right)—are among its hidden gems. Chile’s only two species of carnivorous plants, the sundew and the Antarctic pinguicula (both pictured at top right), are equally striking.
Nicolás Piwonka
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