University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Sian Scott

BySian Scott

May 13, 2024

For the final edition of The Badger, and as the academic year draws to a close, it feels fitting to conclude with a celebration, and given that I am an environmentalist at heart, of wildlife. 

This month, I was fortunate to be gifted a press pass for the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, staged at London’s Natural History Museum. 

Established in 1965, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a globally renowned photography competition that welcomes over 49,000 entries from over 90 countries. International experts select the winning images based on their creativity, originality, and technical excellence. 

Stepping into the Hintze entrance hall, I was humbled by the 25.2 metre-long blue whale skeleton, aptly named Hope. Prepared with my reporter’s notepad and pen, I was primed to report the facts and return to Brighton, yet I left with empty pages; instead, overcome with a cloud of nostalgia, but most overwhelmingly- a flood of emotion. 

Nine years ago, as a sixteen-year-old art student, I ventured to South Kensington to see the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. At the time, I was sold on pursuing a career within the glossy pages of fashion magazines- naive to the fact that the overpriced London travelcard would take me much further than a stop on the solar-temperature tin can (commonly known as the District Line), and into a pair of muddy wellies and a lifetime of styling Gore-Tex anoraks. The trip inspired me to explore an academic route in Ecology and Conservation and, later, a prospective career in environmental journalism. 

Whilst the entirety of the exhibition cannot be confined to 600 words, I wanted to select a few pieces that I loved, and that resonated with my feelings surrounding the current state of the natural world to ornament this article. 

As I explored the exhibition, I could not help but notice a striking dichotomy between the Young Photographer of the Year (for under 18s) and adult categories. While both segments showcased remarkable talent and skill, they elicited distinct emotional responses.

11-14 Years: Highly Commended, Shashwat Harish

In the under 18’s categories, I was struck by the palpable sense of hope and admiration emanating from the mounted prints. The young photographers captured the sheer beauty of nature, each image a testament to their creativity and profound appreciation for the natural world. It felt like they had an innate connection to nature; and captured it through a lens of wonder and acclaim.

On the other hand, the adult categories, ranging from photojournalism to portraiture, often presented a more sobering reality. Images depicting environmental degradation, habitat loss, and the looming shadow of climate change laid bare the harsh truths. Each photograph served as a poignant reminder of the pressing need for action and change.

The People’s Choice Award, Nima Sarikhani

There is no escaping the climate crisis; whether that is taken in a (quite depressing) literal sense or by considering the mass media coverage of global warming. However, it is easy to turn over the newsprint pages or swipe to the following online article, leaving the images of our changing world confined to Times New Roman letters. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition changes that- by confronting the climate change face, or lens, on. 

However, inspired by the perspective showcased in the under 18s categories; I was reminded of the importance of still viewing nature through a lens of hope. Moments captured by young photographers serve as potent reminders to appreciate and preserve the beauty of our natural world for generations to come. 

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at South Kensington closes on the 30th of June.

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