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Rachel Bigsby is crowned the winner of ‘Natural Artistry’ in Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Updated: Oct 21, 2023


26-year-old self-taught wildlife photographer, Rachel Bigsby, has been crowned the winner of ‘Natural Artistry’ in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition at the Natural History Museum in London. This momentous occasion makes East Sussex's Rachel the youngest winner in the history of the category and one of just nine women awarded out of 49,957 entries across 95 countries.


Two Northern Gannets courting on a cliff ledge, framed by streaks of guano.
'The Art of Seduction' - Winner of Natural Artistry at Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The story behind the shot



'The Art of Seduction' was photographed from a boat under the cliffs of Noss National Nature Reserve in Shetland.


When speaking about her award-winning image, Rachel said:


“It was my first time visiting this location and I was staggered by its unique beauty. As our boat chugged toward the island I was quick to see potential, but realised my vision would be tricky aboard a small boat in turbulent sea swell at the foot of the towering cliffs.


The potential I saw was in the sculpted sandstone, rising 180 metres (590 feet) above the North Sea, hosting more than 22,000 northern gannets breeding on its ledges carved by the elements. Each curve was softly draped in streaks of white guano which exaggerated the meandering shape, and within each hourglass sat one or two gannets. I wanted a courting pair, but amongst the 22,000, I couldn’t find one.


Then, I spotted the perfect pair, isolated on a lower ledge, intertwining their necks and framed meticulously by the streaks of guano. In a few seconds the boat aligned with the rocks, everything came together - the courting gannets drew up against a dark hollow on the guano-painted curves of sandstone - and I got my shot, enhancing the complementary shapes in black and white”.



Upon accepting her award at the Natural History Museum, Rachel said:



© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Rachel stood proudly with her winning image

 


The Jury's Verdict


Wildlife Photographer of the Year's reputation is reinforced by the expertise of its jury and the vigour of its judging process. Commenting on 'The Art of Seduction', the jury said:


"A composition that works beautifully in black and white. Your eye follows the flow of the curves from the top to the bottom of the image. The guano marking the cliffs left behind by generations of nesting gannets paints a balletic picture." – Richard Sabin

"The jury loved the interplay between the striations on the rocks and the shape of the birds. It works beautifully in black and white." – Kathy Moran, Editor and Chair of the Jury

"I found this image to be heart-stoppingly beautiful. The graphic nature of it, the sublime display posture of the mated gannets, the perfect separation between their bodies and beaks - it has a collage-like quality to it that grabs the eye and makes you want to keep looking." Melissa Groo


© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

 

In the press


Shortly after the award, Rachel and her award-winning image were picked up by multiple press sources including ITV News and BBC South East News to name a few.



On tour and in print


Rachel’s winning image is a part of the WPY59 collection and will be presented at the Natural History Museum in October before touring to 25 venues across 4 continents, reaching millions globally, shining a spotlight on these stories and species to build awareness of both the beauty and vulnerability of our natural world, and to create advocates for the planet.


'The Art of Seduction' will be published in the WPY59 book




Official merchandise


"It'll come as no surprise that this wonderful photograph of courting gannets framed against guano-painted curves of sandstone cliffs on the Isle of Noss won Rachel Bigsby the Natural Artistry award in our most recent competition. The image features on one side of this black, organic cotton book bag, so you too can spread the joy of these love birds when out shopping!" - Natural History Museum


The Art of Courtship Tote Bag: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59

  • exclusive to the NHM shop

  • made from organic cotton, water-based inks

  • bag W36cm x H40cm, handles H29cm





The Art of Courtship T-shirt: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59

  • exclusive to the NHM shop

  • available in unisex adult sizes

  • made from organic cotton, water-based inks






 

About Rachel


Considered to be a leading wildlife photographer amongst her contemporaries, Rachel Bigsby is a 26-year-old self-taught wildlife photographer carving an awe-inspiring career with her passion for seabirds and her flare for capturing natural artistry.


As a winner in five of the world’s most prestigious competitions, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Bird Photographer of the Year, a Nikon creator, a published photographer by National Geographic, a workshop leader and an emerging natural history broadcaster - it is Rachel’s mission to connect a global audience to new species with captivating photographs which spark a new found love or interest, perhaps empowering change while representing and inspiring young people.



Contact


To contact Rachel about her award or her work, please email: rachel@rachelbigsby.com



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