"THE GOLDEN TURTLE" INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE FESTIVAL
President of "The Golden Turtle" International Wildlife Festival, founder of "My Equator" charitable foundation, SSI master diver, and underwater photographer Andrey Sukhinin and psychotherapist, head of " The Clever Point" immersive psychology center, director of the practical information institution Maternity Support Center and children's centre "MamStart" (Minsk, Belarus) Natalia Navrotskaya gave an interview to our journal, talking about the International Wildlife Festival "The Golden Turtle".
Alexander Kopytin (AK): " The Golden Turtle" International Wildlife Festival is a large-scale ecological and educational project that is now 16 years old and aims to preserve nature through art. The mission of the project is to contribute to the development of environmental awareness and an environmentally friendly way of life. The creative works of the participants allow viewers to see the beauty of the natural world in a new way and think about how to preserve it. Please tell us about how the project came about and how it has developed.
Andrey Sukhini (AS): The project started in 2006 as a local nature photography competition. At that time, it was mainly Russian photographers that took part. Later, "Painting" and "Eco-poster" categories were added to the competition. During the first 10 years of its existence, the "Golden Turtle" gained international fame within the professional community of photographers and animal painters. In 2016, the goals and strategy of the project were revised. The format was expanded with the inclusion of a large popular science element and environmental education events, programs for children and visually impaired people, various street events and major international initiatives. To date, the competition part of the project includes 25,000 artists from 146 countries and five continents. The project partners are the Moscow Government, the World Wildlife Fund, the Russian Geographical Society, and the Far Eastern Leopards Foundation. The project is supported by the Presidential Grants Foundation. Thus, the "Golden Turtle" Festival has transformed into one of the largest wildlife festivals in the world.
Photo 1: Andrey Sukhinin's meeting with young eco-activists, leaders of "The Golden Turtle" movement ("The Golden Turtle" Festival, November 2021)
АК: Although some of its nominations also include posters and paintings, "The Golden Turtle" is a world-class project primarily in the field of professional wildlife photography. Do you think that photography has a special potential in today's world to advance the environmental agenda and environmental values? How do you understand its role in a wide range of contemporary art-related media?
AS: There are a large number of organizations that support the environmental agenda with a fairly standard set of approaches and technologies - from conferences and eco-forums to large-scale volunteer initiatives, from promoting environmental goods and services to introducing waste-free and safe production methods all over the world. “The Golden Turtle” has managed to find its own unique approach to promoting environmental values by influencing the feelings and emotions of people through the positive energy of creativity, which is perhaps one of the most accessible and effective channels for involving people in environmental protection, as it develops in them the ability to see the beauty of the natural world and understand its life and connection with humans. We use social and cultural codes that are understandable to everyone on any continent to communicate our common goal to preserve the ecosphere of our planet for future generations. Therefore, the value of the wildlife photography genre can hardly be overestimated.
Photo 2: A naturalist, popularizer of science, author and host of the program "Everybody is like animals", Evgenia Timonova, is giving a lecture on animal behavior to Moscow schoolchildren ("The Golden Turtle" Festival, November 2021)
Photo 3: Animators conducting interactive activities for children ("The Golden Turtle" Festival, November 2021)
AK: Within the framework of the festival, thematic lectures, creative contests and educational programs of artistic and aesthetic orientation, various interactive events are held that allow exhibition visitors not only to receive information related to the environmental situation, but also to express their own views and get involved in polylogue, to participate in the discussion of topical issues in the lives of modern people and their inextricable connection with the natural world. Could you tell us about this component of the festival? What different events take place and what topics are the most interesting for visitors?
AS: One tradition at “The Golden Turtle“ Festival is the educational program aimed at photographers of all levels, from beginners to experienced professionals. The festival provides this target audience with the most varied opportunities for communication and exchange of experience.
Another example of the educational component of the festival is the large-scale educational program for children, "Golden Turtles", aimed at forming environmental awareness and environmental culture of the younger generation through the creation of a league of young eco-activists. The creators of the most promising environmental projects receive support to implement them.
The most striking discovery of the past season was the mixed formats of presentation initiatives, including the participation of successful photographers and representatives of the scientific community, biologists and zoologists. It seems that here we have found our own original approach, which will be replicated from next season.
Photo 4. An underwater photographer, multiple winner of international photo contests Mikhail Korostelev is giving a lecture on underwater photography of large marine mammals ("The Golden Turtle" Festival, November 2021)
Photo 5. Immersive programs for children. Modern computer technologies make it possible to animate children's drawings ("The Golden Turtle" Festival, October 2019)
AK: “The Golden Turtle“ project involves creativity at all levels, from organizing and conducting creative competitions and educational programs of artistic and aesthetic orientation to designing exhibition spaces and ways of presenting artistic material. What about the organization, presentation and design of the festival do you consider new and original that contributes to its success and the realization of its mission?
AS: We have chosen a synchronous model of project management and completely abandoned unnecessary bureaucracy. Teamwork is based not on instructions and regulations, but on the powerful positive energy of all members, embraced by a single creative impulse. This provides the project with high growth rates that are impossible for all other management models.
Starting next season, we plan to experiment with new formats for presenting our content, allowing the visitor not only to contemplate creative works, but also to interact with them. Here, new technical solutions come to our aid, including augmented reality technologies.
AK: At the beginning of 2022, the festival will take place for the first time in Belarus, in Minsk. Do I understand correctly that this will be one of the first examples of organizing an exhibition of festival artworks outside of Russia? What can you say about the international resonance of the project, the participation of foreign photographers, visual artists and international organizations?
AS: The most striking and large-scale initiative of the “Golden Turtle“ Festival outside of Russia was the exhibition “Planet Earth: Fragile Perfection” at the UN headquarters in New York in the pre-pandemic year 2019. It is very symbolic that its opening took place on April 22, International Earth Day.
We plan to hold the exhibition in Minsk at this difficult time and will try to avoid additional international cooperation because of the pandemic. The entrance to the exhibition will be absolutely free. Let it be a good gift for the residents of the capital of Belarus.
АК: What are your plans for developing the project in the future?
AS: As early as next year we plan to implement a large-scale road show in 11 of the largest cities in Russia, to hold the 2022 Festival season in Moscow in a new form, and to implement a large environmental education project in Moscow schools. If we talk about more distant prospects, then we plan to deepen the environmental agenda, create more programs for children, and attract new partners for cooperation who share our basic values – Nature, Freedom, and Creativity.
AK: During the festival days in Minsk in 2022, as part of the ecological and educational direction of the project, for the first time attention will be paid to the study and formation of ecological culture in its close connection with the task of preserving psychological health, based on the application of an ecopsychological approach. Could you tell us about this component of the festival?
Natalya Navrotskaya (NN): Yes, during the exhibition days we are planning to hold a number of open events that will provide the opportunity to develop an ecological culture and health-preserving skills based on contact with the natural world. We plan to do this by interviewing visitors and involving them in practice-oriented workshops that implement the ideas and technologies of the ecopsychological approach. At the same time, our task is to show the close relationship between people's attitude to nature and their health and wellbeing, to promote the dissemination of beneficial health practices and technologies based on the alliance of nature and art, in particular, the art of photography.
Today, our lives are filled with stressful events that have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. One such event is the Covid-19 pandemic. It is known that human communication with nature helps to improve psycho-emotional state, increases resilience to stress and improves quality of life. The creation and perception of wildlife photography along with other types of subject-environment interactions, can be considered beneficial to maintaining health and wellbeing and, at the same time, to forming ecological culture and sustainable lifestyles.
Within the framework of the festival, we plan to hold open workshops for everyone and also a training seminar, "Art and nature in the interests of protecting human health and the living environment,” for mental health professionals, which will introduce them to modern health-improving technologies based on the theory and practice of ecopsychology and ecotherapy.
Another workshop, "Get to know your wildlife", will be devoted to the neurophysiological foundations of ecopsychology. As part of this master class, demonstrating biofeedback in virtual reality, it will be shown how the body and psyche react to natural objects and landscapes. There will also be training in the basics of relaxation, taking into account these reactions. Participants will be able to feel for themselves how immersion in the natural environment has a beneficial effect on the psycho-emotional state of a person, and learn how this knowledge can be used to provide psychological assistance and conduct preventive measures.
About the interviewer:
Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Department of Psychology, St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education
(St. Petersburg, Russia)
Reference for citations
Kopytin, A. (2022). "The Folden Turtle" International Wildlife Festival. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 3(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: http://en.ecopoiesis.ru (d/m/y)