The winners of the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, run by the UK's Natural History Museum, were selected for their artistic composition, technical innovation, and truthful interpretation of the natural world. Over numerous categories, adult and youth photographers used their cameras to weave a truthful, if sometimes painful, story about the state of contemporary wildlife.
Brent Stirton was awarded the grand prize title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his story on the illegal rhino horn trade. With a population that has declined 90% since 1960, the endangered black rhino is still slaughtered commercially for its horn, even though this practice was banned more than 40 years ago. Stirton's story shines an important light on this conservation issues. While his images can be shocking to see, it's a necessary story to tell.
“The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition isn't just about beautiful images and technical ability—it is also about provoking and stimulating debate,” shares Richard Sabin, the museum's Principal Curator of Mammals. “This image is difficult to look at, but what it shows is an inescapable part of the human exploitation of the natural world. Wildlife Photographer of the Year showcases the world's best nature photography, so it is a perfect platform to use to discuss uncomfortable realities.”
Stirton, who also won the Wildlife Photojournalism Award: Story, beat out almost 50,000 entries with his winning image. The South African photographer followed the tale of a slaughtered black rhino in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, a protected area. And though his work is often difficult, the photographer remarked that seeing the work of the other wildlife photographers gave him hope for the future.
Daniël met Caco after a three-hour trek through dense vegetation with skilled trackers. He was part of a family of 16 gorillas feeding on sweet African breadfruit. In his compelling portrait of this relaxed young gorilla, Daniël captured the inextricable connection of these wild apes with the forest on which they depend.
Thomas' sublime portfolio is a beautiful escape into the remote worlds of the Seychelles. His collection inspires an appreciation of the archipelago's 115 islands and their flora and fauna—including the bohar snapper, one of the Aldabra Atoll's top predators.
Peter had spent a long, difficult morning tracking chimpanzees through dense undergrowth. ‘Photographing in a rainforest with dim light and splashes of sunlight means your exposure settings are forever changing,' he says. Keeping his camera at its optimum ISO setting meant a slow shutter speed, so it was hard to keep a sharp focus without a tripod.
Marcio had been visiting the National Park for three years waiting for the right conditions to capture the glowing termite mounds. After days frustrated by rain, he was in for a surprise. A giant anteater ambled out of the darkness and stayed just long enough for Marcio to take a single picture, using a long exposure and flash to highlight his unexpected companion.
Ashleigh was looking for red foxes in the deep snow of winter, having photographed them in spring and summer from a hide near her home. Spotting this female hunting from the back seat of a car, she grabbed her camera, rested it on the window frame and shot a series of the fox ‘mousing,' diving nose first into a drift.
Driven by curiosity and hunger, this polar bear and her cub stopped to investigate the dirty puddle leaking from Eilo's ship. Without hesitation and in synchrony, they quickly lowered their heads to taste the stained snow. Ashamed, Eilo framed her shot in black and white, emphasizing the contrast between the pollution and the pristine environment.
‘Palm-oil survivors' by Aaron ‘Bertie' Gekoski. Winner, The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single Image.