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National Friendly speaks with chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury, Roz Kidman Cox

Hosted at M Shed on Bristol’s historic waterfront, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition displays the pinnacle of wildlife photography from across the globe. As one of the events sponsors, National Friendly got the chance to talk to the chair of the jury, Roz Kidman Cox, and discussed what goes into selecting the winner of one of the most sort after prizes in the world of photography.  

How do you pick the winning pictures from so many entries?

"Not all of them are the same quality, so we’re quite lucky in one sense to cull the ones that aren’t quite up to it for lots of different reasons. We take three weeks doing it, but it is a matter of “in or out?”. We end up with 40,000 plus entries, and we always end up with 5,000, sometimes 6,000 in the very last week, and that’s when it gets really tricky, because when it comes down to the last few there’s a lot of subjectivity. I’m in a sense not a photographer, but I’ve been involved in wildlife photography for a very long time, so I have a very good background knowledge, and I also know what’s being performed, and that affects your choice."

Is there a photo that’s always stuck with you that you’ll always remember?   

"Funnily enough, it is actually the overall winner from this year. he entered something very similar in a previous year, so I’d kind of seen the atmosphere but the picture wasn’t exactly the same, and this was sort of perfection, so that one is definitely a favourite. There’s also a picture by Jim Brandenberg, I think it’s from 1988, of an Oryx on a sand dune, and I’ve had it on my wall for a very long time and I still love it. He was the overall winner that year. There is also an underwater picture by Brian Skerry of a right whale, taken on the seabed in Australia, and he’s got his dive buddy standing on the seabed and they’re looking at each other. It’s just a very magical and thought provoking picture."

What’s the best advice you can give to a new photographer wanting to get into wildlife photography? 

"I would say, think about your subject really carefully. If you’re starting out, it should be something that’s close to home and you can really get to know your subject, and get to know when to photograph it, what light, what setting. Just experiment, and take the time because good photos don’t come just by luck. They come because somebody has that experience and knowledge. The other bit of advice is see if you can find a mentor, somebody local, that could actually give criticism and give a little bit of advice. If there’s a camera club that doesn’t cost too much, that will answer some more technical questions because you do have to know your equipment, certainly with wildlife photography. It helps hearing from others"

Are you seeing any trends in wildlife photography that expose more of the impact of humans upon wildlife? 

"I think most wildlife photographers are very aware of what’s happening to them. They will study the animals and study where they go, so they cannot help but notice, and therefore photograph what’s happening. There are terrible things happening, and I think the level of destruction has increased rapidly, and hence there are more examples of gut-wrenching scenes, or scenes that make photographers really distressed and angry and want to publicise what’s happening."

What can we do as an average person to help with animal and nature conservation? 

"Volunteering locally definitely does help. It’s not just globally, this country also needs a lot of help, and we’ve got big changes ahead. Wildlife trusts are represented throughout the country, and they can care about the local environments. So definitely volunteering locally, and join a charity that you approve of, but most importantly it’s adding your voice. Charities are quite good at giving you some form of letter so you can write to your MP, because pressuring your MP really does work, and then it’s also if an individual campaigns a petition for parliament, once it gets over 100,000 signatures it has to be debated, so individual voices do count."

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is open to the public until the 24th February 2019 at M Shed in Bristol, and until the 30th June 2019 at the Natural History Museum in London.         

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