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Wildlife Photographer of the Year: meet Kathy Moran the new Chair of the Jury

With Roz Kidman Cox OBE stepping down as Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jury, the time has come to welcome a new Chair.

As the Competition moves into its fifty-ninth year, we welcome as the new Chair of the Jury Kathy Moran, former National Geographic Deputy Director of Photography and Founding Member of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

At National Geographic, Kathy worked closely on natural history stories, eventually becoming the first senior editor for natural history content at the magazine. For Kathy, this was an opportunity to shape storytelling at the publication. Seeing natural history as 'only really half the story', Kathy found a way to blend this with conservation reporting, which she believed was vital for people to see.

One of her most powerful experiences at the magazine was working with Michael 'Nick' Nichols, who's photo The Last Great Picture won the Grand Title in the Competition's fiftieth year.

'For years Nick and I had wanted to do a story that looked at the lions of the Serengeti,' explains Kathy, 'but we always talked about the fact that it couldn't just be about the natural history and the life of lions. In fact, we had to step back and look at not only human-wildlife conflict but the wider issues, the solutions and what it's like to share a landscape with a big predator.'

'That was always going to be the approach to the story, the marrying of those two sides of the coin, but when Nick got out there, he was just absolutely captivated by the lions, and we just couldn't drag him away.'

'So, in the end we assigned Brent Stirton to go and do the other part of the story. And his images of trophy hunting, captive breeding, people who had survived attacks from lions and the lion warriors and guardians - all of that came together with Nick's photographs to make one of the strongest stories that we've ever done.'

Kathy's experiences at National Geographic have shaped her approach to photographic storytelling as has her involvement in the International League of Conservation Photographers, of which she was a Founding Member. For Kathy, the league created a community for photographers who were shining a spotlight on conservation challenges and progress through their work.

A welwitschia plant in the Namib Desert

A welwitschia plant in the Namib Desert. Desert Relic © Jen Guyton

It is this sense of community that drew Kathy towards the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. 'One thing that has always been so clear to me is that Wildlife Photographer of the Year has created an international community that means so much to photographers, photo editors and even the audience that comes to the Museum every year.'

'The young photographer categories are pure joy,' says Kathy, 'and often they're really, really good. I am actually having a conversation with a young woman who's been a category winner several times and I'm really excited to see where she's going to go with her career. And you know it all started with those early wins in the young photographer categories.'

'And this again circles back to this community that the Competition has created,' Kathy explains. 'Some of the photographers that I've met through Wildlife Photographer of the Year are now lead storytellers at National Geographic, and they're making photographs and telling stories in completely different ways and it's so exciting to watch it happen, and they got that leg up at the Competition.'

A fox buries its head in the snow

A fox dives nose first into a snow drift on the hunt for voles. Stuck in © Ashleigh Scully

During her time as Chair of the Jury, Kathy hopes to develop this community of photographers even further. Considering the professional diversity of the jury, which is usually a mix of photographers, editors, Museum scientists and photojournalists, she muses, 'to be able to bring this this group of people together, to talk things through and to be able to step back and look at the images through those different lenses is really important'.

'What I hope I can bring as Chair is a willingness to listen and to respect one another, and ultimately to embrace what you have all put forward, because at its best a jury is such a collaborative process, and so I really hope to create that atmosphere.'

Beyond working together, the best juries are often brave. For Kathy, the jury that selected Brent Stirton's Memorial to a Species as the Grand Title winner in 2017 was one of the most remarkable. 'I thought that selecting that photo as the winner really led the way in signalling that the Competition was exploring wildlife in all aspects and that conservation storytelling was just as important to them as natural history.'

'There have been so many absolutely stunning photographs throughout the years, but that to me was one of the most important moments in the Competition. They made Wildlife Photographer of the Year history with that.'

A black rhino bull lies dead with a gaping hole where it's horn has been severed.

A black rhino bull lies dead after its killers entered the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, South Africa illegally. Memorial to a Species © Brent Stirton

Looking forward to the fifty-ninth Competition, which will be Kathy's first as Chair, we asked what she'll be looking out for.

'Something that's always a standout is someone telling a conservation story but doing it locally. Sometimes it really can be that story in your own backyard,' she says.

'And it would be really wonderful to see a greater diversity of entrants to the Competition - photographers in their own countries, photographing what's there. That's something that is much hoped for, to see a country's wildlife through a country's own photographers.'

    

Enter the competition

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59 Competition is open for entries until 8 December 2022.