Monday, 19 January 2015

Is wildlife photography becoming too "Arty-farty"? Discuss.

The 2014 GWCT photographic competition's adult category winning image - a superb shot of a Cuckoo. 
Each winter, as part of my birthday present, my daughter treats me to tickets for the Wildlife photographer of the year exhibition, held in the Natural History Museum in London. I really look forward to this occasion as not only do I get to see my daughter - we always have a good lunch together after viewing the exhibition – but the photography on show is amazing too.

As this year is the 50th year that the exhibition has been held, there was a selection of previous winners and notable pictures being shown on a loop, which clearly demonstrated just how images have got better and better as technology has improved over the years. The image quality is now unbelievably sharp and many of the photos are truly spectacular.

However, that said, both my daughter and I thought that the competition maybe, just maybe, has started to become a little too “arty-farty” for its own good. It is though the judges can’t just choose a spectacular photograph of an animal or landscape that shows off its individual beauty or indeed, ugliness or brutality. No, it seems that to be chosen as “worthy” of inclusion for the exhibition, increasingly a photograph has to be taken from a particularly strange angle, shot in weird light, purposefully blurred or depicting only a small section of the target species.

Of course photography should be clever, different and often challenge or even shock the onlooker. But sometimes the most amazing photographs are relatively simple, portraying an incredible landscape or spectacular individual species in its natural environment, allowing nature to show itself off, without the photographer manipulating the outcome too much.

On occasions the “arty” shot can produce the most stunning of images and should definitely make up a part of anyone’s photography portfolio, but not in my opinion, become the required format to win prizes.

Don’t forget that the GWCT’s photographic competition is now open and ready to welcome all your entries – arty and otherwise!!  Last year was without doubt the best range and highest standard that we have ever had – so come on, get out there and get that shutter whirring!  2015 could see your entry win first prize!

If you are interested in entering the competition, go to:


  1. I agree totally that some of the WPOTY images are too arty farty especially the winning image which I would have binned. Extraordinary decision in many wildlife photographers view. As a bird photographer myself I wouldn't have been happy with the above cuckoo photo either as it has it's faults, not many I will admit but I wouldn't have chosen it as an overall winner. @Birdblogger

  2. I'm so pleased that my daughter and I are not the only ones thinking along these lines - thank you for your comments. In defence of the Cuckoo image, which is as you say not a "perfect" image, please remember that this competition is only open to amateurs - ie the general public!

  3. With modern image making (photography now goes way beyond the camera) the line gets blurred I think between reality and art. All great photography should inform and inspire, provoke thought. What does the winning WPOTY say about the Lions? Or are you too distracted by the sky? Which would never appear like that without Photoshop and HDR photography.

    The cuckoo image is the more honest image, it's not perfect, but nor are some of the best images in the world.

  4. I couldn't have put it better myself Jon!