Behind the scenes: the WPY52 judging room
06 May 2016 posted by: Zoe - WPY Comms Officer
We received almost 50,000 entries from 95 countries, so selecting images to join the WPY legacy and be seen by a global audience was not a task taken lightly by the WPY52 jury. After 40 hours spent deliberating in the judging room at the Natural History Museum last week, our panel of experts selected this year's winning images and the next grand title winner. All awarded photographers have now been notified of their success and there's no doubt they will be looking forward to the awards ceremony later this year with eager anticipation.
So, how were the awarded images selected and what was the experience like for the jury? Read on for insights from this year's panel.
The WPY52 jury (from left to right): Wildlife photojournalist Bruno D'Amicis (Italy); writer and editor Rosamund 'Roz' Kidman Cox (UK); Chair of the jury Lewis Blackwell (UK); Nordic landscape photographer Orsolya Haarberg (Hungary/Norway); wildlife photographer Klaus Nigge (Germany) and biologist Dr Piotr Naskrecki (Poland/USA).
The varied expertise, passion and experience of this year's judging panel meant fruitful discussions and heated debates were to be expected, and encouraged.
On leading the discussions, Chair of the jury Lewis Blackwell says:
"This year's WPY judging gave me the honour of chairing perhaps the most opinionated and yet balanced set of jury members I have experienced. We really interrogated the pictures and each other. Discussion ranged across species, photographic history, and the finer points of many a RAW file, along with much else over the long days of deliberation."
Jury member Klaus Nigge adds:
"Sometimes juries don't work because there is no energy. Here, it was really great because we had a range of opinions and attitudes about photography. With Piotr being a biologist and naturalist and the others being more focussed on photography, the science and natural history captured in a photograph were discussed as well as considerations of pure photography. This created energy... things to fight about! It was really interesting".
Each image was critiqued by at least two jury members during the first round of judging, with final round images being evaluated and discussed by the whole panel. All images were viewed digitally, using a high-spec projector, so the jury could see the images as they would be exhibited in the Museum.
The jury vote and discuss images for the popular underwater category.
The judges were looking for images demonstrating aesthetic brilliance and technical skill, whilst upholding high ethical standards and adhering to stringent rules on digital processing. In addition to this, of course, awarded images needed to be original.
On the competition criteria, Lewis Blackwell comments:
"What really distinguishes these awards is how they demand a synthesis of artistry, scientific knowledge and cultural insight. The final selection have to be highly impactful images to start with but then always need to be insightful in the observation and commentary on wildlife and nature, while also often showing innovation and relevance to current debates of various kind. It is a fearsome set of requirements and yet many rise to it".
Piotr Naskrecki adds:
"As a jury the first thing we do is to look for something new and the technical aspect actually comes in second. If you can show a subject in a new and creative way, that's the winning formula; just be different".
The jury discuss the shortlisted images for the Impressions category.
To break up the long hours spent in the darkness of the judging room, the jury members were given the opportunity to see some scientific wonders at the Museum's Tank Room and take in some visual inspiration at the Museum Library's Rare Books room.
On spending time at the Museum, Bruno D'Amicis says:
"The Museum for me is always a fairy tale. I wish I could have been here as a child, because it's such a building and the collections could only empower the vision, dreams and fantasy of any nature enthusiast as a child. I look for the exotic, for the interesting and the unique, so I really enjoyed our tour of the Museum. It was a very precious experience".
Orsolya Haarberg adds:
"I really enjoyed going behind-the-scenes in the Museum. Important research and unique collections of specimens and illustrations make the Natural History Museum one of the most important centres of natural history in the world".
The WPY52 jury exploring the Museum's Tank Room with Curator of Fish James Maclaine
While reaching a decision for each category winner was a demanding challenge, the biggest and most exciting task of all was choosing the grand title winner.
Orsolya Haarberg comments on reaching this decision:
"For us all it was really important to award an image which is a true representation of the natural world with great visual impact at the same time.
I think we selected a photograph that is a result of careful planning, was created under great challenges and has a lasting effect of surprise. This is all we could expect from an overall winner in this competition".
Lewis Blackwell concludes:
"I think I can speak on behalf of the jury in saying we are pleased and honoured to present a final choice that has the potential to inform and inspire audiences around the world".
The winner of the 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony held at the Natural History Museum later this year.