We asked Tom Ang about judging the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards and what makes a winning wildlife photograph.
What does the Wildlife Photographer of the Year mean to you?
It’s a standard-bearer, a hallmark for all photographers, of any persuasion. It has almost single-handedly changed the status of wildlife photography from something that “red-necked twitchers” do on weekends to a serious and respected genre of photography.
How has the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards evolved since it was established in 1965?
Its evolution has been a kind of classic Darwinian: what survives as the great and good of images fosters ever finer work but the competition has also overseen the Anthropocene mass extinction without sufficient comment. That is WPY’s fundamental paradox and a self-contradiction which urgently needs resolving.
What qualities do you consider when judging images?
Aesthetic and technical evaluations are only the beginning of the judging process. The wider context of the photography and its purpose, the narrow context of the photograph itself and how it was created, plus the ethical standards of the photographer throughout the image chain are all pertinent.
What impact have digital technologies had on wildlife photography?
More than in any other genre of photography, digital technologies have greatly extended the range of wildlife photography. Not only in the actual capture – that’s perhaps the least important – but in refining features such as auto-focus, remote trips, flash lighting and hugely extending underwater working times.
Little Squid by Fabien Michenet
Do you find there’s an increasing amount of work breaching your code of ethics in terms of misrepresenting reality?
I don’t mind that people misrepresent reality in their photography, but I do mind when people misrepresent what they’re doing – pretending one thing when doing another. Yes; there is a slipping standard of veracity in proportion to the insitutionalisation of mendacity in authority figures.
What advice would you give to aspiring wildlife photographers?
It’s not about you, it’s about the wildlife, their environment, your planet. Without them, you could photograph only your footprints in the sand.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year shows at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery 2 May until 6 September 2015.