An annual affair for the most innovative photographers across the world, this competition not only showcases individual skills, it also brings important global issues to the forefront and sheds a light on species and landscapes that are under attack.
Now in its 51st year, organised by the Natural History Museum in London, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has grown tremendously since it began in 1965 with just 500 entries. These days, it is entered by masses of avid nature photographers from all over the world, and is seen by thousands as it tours the globe. This along with the major global press attention the competition receives means that the mission to inspire and educate people reaches billions.
At the moment, this year’s finalists and winners are displayed at the Natural History Museum until April 10th.
Why is it important?
So what makes the Wildlife Photographer of the Year such a seminal event? First of all, the mission statement speaks for itself: to alter how people think about the natural world, and to inspire change. By showcasing our world, both the wonderful everyday and the extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime, through the lens of nature lovers, the WPY hopes to show people how much is worth preserving. Whether it be the ways of life of an indigenous community, endangered species, or threatened environments, showing the public what could be lost can be the catalyst for change. The caption for each photograph details not only the subject matter, but how it is under fire from climate change and human interference as well. A significant detail, as it shows just how many ecosystems are in potential danger.
The exhibit is also one of the most popular attractions at the Natural History Museum, with people from all over the country often travelling there every year. It draws people to this historic place, so they can see the regular exhibits and appreciate the research that continues there. From gemstones to dinosaurs, there is everything you could think of that would spark a lasting curiosity, especially in young people.
And now, there is plenty of opportunity for children as young as 11yrs to get involved with the competition, with the youth categories 11-14yrs and 15-17yrs. This integration means that curious minds are encouraged, making sure that future generations remain interested in conservation and wildlife.
This year’s crop is as varied and mesmerising as ever, with pieces depicting everything from arid deserts, to urban foxes, to extraordinary plant-life, to marine wonders. This year also saw the introduction of the People’s Choice category, voted for by the public, which is shown right at the end of the exhibit after a slideshow of all the contestants in the running. Another great way to get more people involved and aware.
The big winner this year came from Don , a surgeon from Canada, who snapped a resonating image of a red fox carrying the remains of an Arctic fox back to its den. Gutaski followed the red fox for three hours to get the alarming shot that speaks volumes about the impact climate change is having on the territorial practices of these two species. Because their habitats are overlapping, they are crossing paths where they usually would not, meaning that this ordinarily rare sight is becoming more regular. Foxes aren’t the only species being affected in this way, and this winning photograph sheds a light on that fact.
Another other notable category winner is Brent Stirton, who earned the Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story with a series of images drawing attention to the ivory trade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Images of a former poacher, the rangers who are trying to stop the illegal trade and their widows, and a staggering shot of a confiscated shipping container filled with tusks, do not need their captions to tell the powerful story they do.
You really have to see these photographs to understand their impact, so be sure to make it down to the Natural History Museum or to the worldwide tour. Educate yourself on what’s going on in the world – and who knows, you might even be inspired to go in to your back garden armed with a camera yourself.
See more from our volunteers #Frontiervolunteer