Running since 1964, the competition that produces Wildlife Photographer of the Year
gets bigger and better as the years go by. A collaboration between the BBC (through their own BBC Wildlife Magazine
) and the Natural History Museum, the competition now receives around 20,000 entries a year, and stages exhibitions in places as far a field as Pakistan and China. The competition now boasts 17 separate categories, which makes browsing through this, the competition's latest portfolio of winning and commended work, a more than idle pleasure. The best sections work like a small visual essays around a theme: the pictures in "The Underwater World" and the chapter accurately (if cringingly) named "Animal Portraits" worked particularly well. By developing so many categories, the competition organisers are now able to cover a broad range of photographic tastes; everything from reportage to experiments in colour and form.
There's still room for expansion: "The World in Our Hands" contains photographs of our species' hapless stewardship of the natural world. But the relationship between the built and natural environment is so complex, this theme could be usefully subdivided and explored further: the inclusion of the enchanting section "Urban and Garden Wildlife" doesn't really cover all bases. This is a valuable document about an often forgotten form of fine art; one whose respect for representation and accuracy still leaves plenty of room for artistic innovation. --Simon Ings