Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki in Pātea will host an exhibition of rare and extraordinary National Geographic photographs next year.

Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary will be exhibited for the first time in New Zealand from March 2019.

The exhibition, inspired by the book National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary features 50 striking images shot by some of the world's finest photographers of places, events, natural phenomena and man-made heirlooms seldom seen by human eyes.

With an introduction by National Geographic photographer Stephen Alvarez, whose work has taken him from the Peruvian Andes to the deepest caves of Papua New Guinea, this exhibition captures unbelievable moments, natural wonders and extraordinary objects from the far reaches of the globe.

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"Rarely Seen is a great example of National Geographic's rich history of sharing places, moments and objects that astonish and inspire," said Kathryn Keane, vice president for National Geographic Exhibitions.

"This collection from the stables of the world's leading geography imaging organisation is truly unseen in many ways."

Joel Sartore's Hey, That Tickles appears to be a surrealist painting when in fact the photographer captured the image of a display being cleaned at the retail store in Sidney, Nebraska.

A bighorn sheep gets a cleaning as an employee dusts off a display at a retail store in Nebraska. Photo/Joel Sartore
A bighorn sheep gets a cleaning as an employee dusts off a display at a retail store in Nebraska. Photo/Joel Sartore

Retired logging elephant Rajan was enjoying a moment with his mahout, or elephant driver Nazroo when photographer Cesare Naldi captured them swimming in the ocean off the Andaman Islands creating a beautiful photograph titled Elephant Connection.

These rare images along with 48 others will be on show at Aotea Utanganui Museum until August next year.

Cameron S Curd, pukapuka-a-rohe/district archivist for Aotea Utanganui, says the exhibition provides a rare opportunity for New Zealand audiences.

"It is a special moment to celebrate heritage and culture from right across the globe."

Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki, formerly known as the South Taranaki District Museum, is home to significant collections including the earliest dated wooden artefacts found in New Zealand.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said it is an honour to host Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand audiences to view this stunning international photographic collection right here in South Taranaki," he said.

Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki at 127 Egmont St, Patea is open from 10am until 4pm from Monday to Saturday.