Photographs Challenge Credibility Of Wildlife
Photographer Of The Year Awards
Natural History Museum has been forced to rethink the
entry requirements for its Wildlife
Photographer of the Year awards.
Once again, a prizewinning
entry has been subsequently disqualified. That
image, entered in the 2017 competition and called
depicts an anteater near a termite mound in
Despite the photographer,
Marcio Cabral, protesting his innocence, the
picture has currently been disallowed on the
grounds that the anteater was most likely a
taxidermy specimen and had hence been long
A counter argument that the
creature was not dead but, in fact, resting has
been dismissed by the Natural History Museum.
The anteater was
definitely deceased, asserted a member of
the judging panel. His total lack of
movement was not, as the panel was told, due to
him being tired and shagged out following a
prolonged termite hunt. Nor do we find credible
the explanation that the animal was pining for
the Brazilian fjords.
Clearly that anteater
was no more. He had ceased to be. He had expired
and gone to meet his maker. He was a stiff.
Bereft of life. He rests in peace. If he hadnt
been nailed to the termite hill, he would have
been pushing up the daisies. His metabolic
processes are now history. Hes off the twig.
Hes kicked the bucket. He's shuffled off
his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined
the bleeding choir invisible. This was an ex-anteater!
This is not the first time
a winning competition entry has later been
disallowed. In 2009, a photograph of a jumping,
wild, Spanish wolf
was disqualified when it was concluded that the
creature had been sourced from a zoo.
Having just been hurled
over a farm gate by four photography assistants,
it was argued, at the time, that the animal had
actually been very wild indeed.
Wild in the context
of our competition, however,' clarified a judging
panel spokesperson, 'means habitually living in
the wild. It does not mean that a tame animal
just happens to be very cross.
Sources close to the
competitions organisers have reported
concerns that further public allegations of
enhanced or staged photography could undermine
the credibility and prestige of the competition.
With this in mind, some
observers have questioned the apparent
disappearance of other winning photographs from
the competition archive.
I wanted to re-examine
the famous 2013 photograph of the six legged lion
on the moon, said one photography critic,
but all traces of that image seem to have
been erased. Also, she continued, who
could forget that wonderful 2010 picture of the
levitating unicorn taken in Shangri-La? That too
however, seems, inexplicably, to be currently
Photographer of the Year awards have been
criticised for appearing to favour experienced,
professional photographers. It has been suggested
that, if true, this might relate to enhancing the
prestige of the prize. It might also, however,
reflect a hope that such entrants would spend
more time in the field and less time in zoos, at
taxidermists or creatively using Photoshop.
It very much appears
to me, opined one photographic journalist,
that the name of the person who takes the
photograph, the context in which it is allegedly
taken, and the photographic equipment used, may
be more important than the images themselves.
There are certainly many examples of mediocre
work by well know photographers gaining success
in the competition.
If this is the case,
he concluded, the panel may simply not be
looking closely enough at the photographs, and
are thus missing tell-tale signs of staging. For
example, an underwater image from the 2007
competition, in its uncut form, had a frame
surrounding it which resembled that of a
Panasonic TV screen. This may well have been a
case in point.
In an attempt to avoid
enhanced or staged images, the competition
organisers are believed to be considering tougher
guidelines for entries. These are thought to
All creatures depicted must be recognisable as
extant, and preferably personally known, by David
2 Photographs must be
taken in good daylight and contain sufficient
additional detail to place them in a wild
location. Ice cream vans and childrens play
areas in shot would risk immediate
3 Entrants must agree to
a lie detector test and other such examinations
as the panel deems appropriate although
water boarding would only be employed where there
was considerable concern about the veracity of an
backs of all images must be countersigned by a
responsible person, in the manner of passport
photographs, to confirm that no people wearing
animal costumes appear in the pictures.
It is hoped that such
measures will lead to a trouble free competition
as it enters its 54th year.