Photography

Contented seal, ’stricken‘ racoon and the sad fate of a turtle: images commended in prestigious photography award

Highly commended entries for The Natural History Museum's 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award are released – with a conservation subtext ringing clear. Monday, 9 September 2019

By Simon Ingram
Found and photographed on Bon Secour National Wildlife Reserve in Alabama, this Kemp's sea turtle – one of the smallest sea turtles, and fiercely endangered – was noosed by a piece of material attached to a broken chair.

It looks at first like a strange seaside caricature: on a beach next to a battered lawn chair, the sea turtle looks for a moment to be kind of unlikely pet, awaiting the return of an absentee owner. Then you notice the ruff of blood – and that the tether around its neck isn't a lead, but a noose.

Matthew Ware's hard-hitting image is one of a selection of Highly Commended photographs released today as a first-look at 2019's Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. First exhibited in 1964, the competition – featuring 100 photographs from professional and amateur photographers worldwide – is displayed annually at London's Natural History Museum between October 2019 and May 2020. Previous winners of the award include National Geographic photographers Marsel Van Oosten, Paul Nicklen and Frans Lanting. 

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This year's competition saw nearly 50,000 entries from 100 countries, with winners selected for 'their creativity, originality, and technical excellence.'

The Highly Commended images released today range from the comical – a racoon poking its head from a wrecked car, and a fish appearing to use a jellyfish as a porthole – to the chilling, such as a wall of handprints in rattlesnake blood made by those who have skinned the reptiles in an annual Texas festival.   

“Photography has a unique ability to spark conversation, debate and even action. We hope this year's exhibition will empower people to think differently about our planet and our critical role in its future,” Dr Tim Littlewood, Director of Science at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel said in a press release.  

The overall winners will be announced on October 15, with entries for the 2020 competition opening on October 21.