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Wildlife photographer of the year winner disqualified

20/01/2010 11:01:48

The storybook wolf has been disqualified from the competition after doubts about how wild the wolf was. Photo credit NHM/BBC

Storybook wolf just a bit too much of a story

In response to a lot of disquiet about the winning image of the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year, The judging panel was reconvened; they concluded that it was likely that the wolf featured in the image was an animal model that can be hired for photographic purposes and, as a result, that the image had been entered in breach of Rule 10 of the Competition.

Many independent observers thought the shot just too perfect, implying that it had been staged, and even that the wolf was not a wild animal.

No new winner to be chosen
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year will not announce a new winner. Judging throughout the competition is blind, and as the photographers are now known as well as all the details about the images it would be impossible to make an objective choice of an overall winner, so it would be unfair to all the photographers who entered the competition.

Louise Emerson, from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition office, said: "It saddens us to confirm that after a careful and thorough investigation into the image, the storybook wolf, the co-owners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine have disqualified the winning entry of the photographer José Luis Rodríguez. The judging panel looked at a range of evidence and took specialist advice from panel judges who have extensive experience of photographing wildlife including wolves. They also considered the responses to specific questions put to the photographer José Luis Rodriguez."

Animal model
The competition rules clearly state that photographs of animal models may not be entered into the competition and that images will be disqualified if they are entered in breach of Rule 10. Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition rules are available to all entrants including versions translated into several languages.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the world's most prestigious photography competition of its kind. Any transgression of the competition rules is taken very seriously and if entries are suspected of breaching the rules they are disqualified. José Luis Rodríguez's image will be removed from the exhibition and tour.

Mr Rodriguez strongly denies that the wolf in the image is a model wolf.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

I was delighted to see that the winning, 'Dog jumping over a gate' has been disqualified from 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year.' It creates a bit of interest doesn't it? Did the judges really need a second look to decide that this was a phoney baloney image? Don't worry, it isn't the first time that a faked up image has done well in this competition. It used to be that some photographers would give it a go to see if they could slip one through - now they are doing it just to win - which given the work involved, seems a lot of effort for the potential return. The thought process alone demonstrates an extraordinary lack of imagination.
When I was filming for the B.B.C. Natural History Unit, set ups were not unusual. Show me a wildlife film-maker who claims never to have set up an event and I'll show you a .... well, you know what I am saying. The secret, it seems, is to do it properly, so nobody notices ... yea right! But enter some trivial photo-competition and double standards suddenly come into play.
There are far too many photographic and art competitions - they have become an industry and there is a lot to be gained by a small number of people, but little for most of the entrants. I have to admit that I submitted in the early 1980s. A girlfriend accompanied me on a B.B.C. overseas filming trip (unpaid, and I took care of the tickets) and worked as an assistant. Having taken stills she wanted to enter the competition and did well in some category or other. On seeing the poor quality reproductions on the wall I wanted nothing further to do with it, although a few years later I did attend again in order to film this tedious bunfight. Apart from the backdrop of 'The Natural History Museum', the whole thing was a depressing experience, the pictures had not reproduced well and there were too many dignitaries with far too much to say about the images - shouldn't pictures speak for themselves? And the judges, for the most part, were less qualified than many of the entrants.
I know what you are thinking - if you don't like it , then don't enter, and I am certainly with you on that, but I can't help feeling how much better things would be without the judging. We have become obsessed with value and judgement. Who can say what a 'best picture' is? At the very least, the notion is silly. Sure there has to be a selection process, but why not just hang a variety of good pictures and invite people to come and see them. Competitions are artless and restrictive by nature. The photographer is held back - most especially by format, and the process inhibits imaginative thinking and the whole thing helps to keep wildlife photography seated in the dark ages compared to many other areas of photography.
So, not much in this competition for the entrants, but no doubt the process sells a lot of cameras and accessories, and it is business as usual for the celebrities. All in all then, more of the same old same old.
And if anybody tells you that the process is good for the environment, then question it. Most animals are better off when they are left alone and too many wildlife photographers are, quite simply, a bloody nuisance. Sadly, natural habitat continues to disappear at an alarming rate despite the plethora of images produced. I am shouting this as loudly as I can. You'll get no sanctimonious natural history whisperings from me. And the other thing - if this competition is to continue - how about a category specifically for non-flash photography - that should make many of the images a bit more interesting and a little less couched in the 1970s.

Posted by: Stephen Bolwell | 23 Jan 2010 02:44:28

Disqualified winner over 'staged' image

I have heard of these places where animals are trained for 'staged photography', this is all very well for 'practicing' a technique, but is fairly pointless for anything other than that.
The joy of wildlife photography must surely come from the sheer unpredictabilty of capturing an image of wildlife in its natural state, that is what makes the hours of waiting and watching all worthwhile, if it was too easy it would lose its appeal. I feel very sad for Jose Luis Rodriguez though, as it is a high place from which to fall and in such a public way, I thought the photograph was amazing and it still is in its own right, what a shame for all involved.

Posted by: Amanda King | 22 Jan 2010 14:44:12

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