Media

Media releases for the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Competition.

Media contact:

Ashleigh Glynn
Communications Officer, South Australian Museum

0466 389 019 or ashleigh.glynn@samuseum.sa.gov.au

Border Fire Mt Barney (detail) by Ben Blanche

Powerful reminder of tragic summer wins photography competition

Friday 28 August 2020

As another Australian fire season looms, a confronting image of a fire in Mount Barney National Park has won the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition in 2020. “Border Fire Mt Barney” by Ben Blanche captures one of the many heartbreaking fires that ravaged Australia this past summer.

Ben Blanche from Queensland took the winning photograph in November after a lightning strike hit the extremely dry national park, located about 120km south-west of Brisbane

“The fire was rather slow moving and took some hours to move across the mountain, luckily I had a local telling me what the fire conditions were like leading up to the day so I could plan,” Mr Blanche said.

“I got to the location with ample time before the sun had gone down so I could form a rough idea of when the balance of fire and ambient light would be right,” Mr Blanche explained.

“I think this is an iconic and powerful image that records a part of the 2019/2020 bushfire season in Australia. When I took this image, many Australians were grappling with the very real effects of climate change and how it is impacting our environment, communities, economies and way of life,” added Mr Blanche.

Mr Blanche has been a photographer for nearly 20 years. His prize is $10,000 and a Coral Expeditions holiday prize.

When asked how it felt to be named the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2020, Mr Blanche said:

“It’s rather unreal and I feel incredibly lucky. I have entered this competition many times since the inaugural competition and the standard of work is extraordinary and very competitive. It is a great achievement that I will cherish and really helps solidify that all the hours and photos that haven’t worked over the years were worth it”.

The 2020 competition judges are:

  • Michael Aw – a wildlife photographer, explorer and conservationist.

  • Drew Hopper – an Australian documentary and editorial photographer.

  • Georgina Steytler – a nature photographer with a passion for birds, ethics and conservation.

The judges said: “This image not only skilfully captures a landscape, it captures a defining moment in the modern history of Australian nature. Its raw beauty is confronting, as it documents the energy and scale of the recent bushfire crisis. In the wave of flames snaking across the mountain we see the true scale of the fire, and for every burning tree that we see, we imagine the shrubs, the vines, the insects, the marsupials and the birds that we can’t.”

Mr Brian Oldman, Director of the South Australian Museum, said that Mr Blanche’s photograph had been judged the winning entry among 1796 photographs.

“This image really depicts the reality of bushfire season in Australia, capturing the scale and ferocity of the damage fires can cause,” Mr Oldman said.

“I think all Australians will connect with this image and take a moment to pause and reflect on the impact bushfires have on our environment,” he added.

“Each year the entries astound me, they capture moments in time that are often invisible to the naked eye. We’re very proud to produce this competition and resulting exhibition every year,” he explained.

Ms Chrissie Goldrick, Editor-in-Chief, Australian Geographic said:

“Each year we get an opportunity to see the wild world presented from new viewpoints and with fresh interpretations of familiar subjects and themes. The entry period for this year’s contest spanned a catastrophic bushfire season in Australia. The scale of the devastation was unprecedented and the toll on native wildlife heartbreaking. It’s a con­text that’s reflected in this year’s winning image and one that’s likely to influence how we view the photographs presented here, which so artfully demonstrate both the magnificence and the fragility of the natural realm that we hold so precious.”

The winner and runners-up of the ten categories have also been announced.

Animal Portrait:
Winner: Leopard Anemone, Richard Robinson (NZ)
Runner-up: Wyulda, Matt Clancy (VIC)

Animal Behaviour
Winner: A Fever of Cownose Rays, Alex Kydd (WA)
Runner-up: Spawning Jewel Anemones, Richard Robinson (NZ)

Animal Habitat:
Winner: Storm Dragon, Jari Cornelis (WA)
Runner-up: Firestorm, Raoul Slater (QLD)

Botanical:
Winner: Enchanted Forest, Kevin De Vree (Belgium)
Runner-up: Gondwanan Link, Nick Monk (TAS) 

Landscape:
Winner: Bolt on Stormy Ocean, Mat Beetson (WA)
Runner-up: The Main Range, Karl Strand (NSW)

Monochrome:
Winner: Phil’s World, Charles Davis (NSW)
Runner-up: Face Off, Andy Wingate (QLD)

Junior (photographers under 18 years of age):
Winner: Graceful and Green, Tess Poyner (NSW)
Runner-up: Scrub Python, Robert Irwin (NSW)

Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature):
Winner: The Wreck of the Penguins, Richard Robinson (NZ)
Runner-up: Don’t Forget to Check for Me, Doug Gimesy (VIC)

Threatened Species (threatened, rare, vulnerable or endangered species):
Winner: Tasmanian Devil, Jasmine Vink (QLD)
Runner-up: Facing Extinction, Kevin De Vree (Belgium)

Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of six or more images):
Ethan Mann (QLD)

In 2020 the competition welcomed the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife on board as a sponsor for the Threatened Species category.

CEO, Ian Darbyshire, Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife said:

"It is with great pleasure that we support the Nature Photographer of the Year, particularly in the category of Threatened Species. Our Foundation is built on "Growing Parks and Saving Species" and there's no better way to capture the beauty of our natural environment than in a timeless photograph. Congratulations to all of the finalists for your amazing work in preserving the legacy of Australia for generations to come."    

The South Australian Museum is hosting a public exhibition featuring all finalists from Friday 28 August until Sunday 15 November. The Australian Museum in Sydney will also host the exhibition as part of their grand opening later this year.

For further information and to view the full gallery please visit: https://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/c/npoty/gallery

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