Johannes Wassermann from Italy wins with a documentation about hazel grouse in the mountain forest of South Tyrol. The Junior Prize goes to Mateusz Piesiak from Poland for his photographic long-term project Shades of Blue.
The story 'My' hazel grouse cock in the mountain forest of South Tyrol wins Italian Johannes Wassermann the Fritz Pölking Prize 2018. This international prize awarded by the Society of German Nature Photographers (GDT) and Tecklenborg publishing house since 2007 in memory of the late Fritz Pölking, is given away annually to honour exceptional photographic work. This may either be a special wildlife photography project or a portfolio of individual photographs.
The jury consisting of Gisela Pölking, Sebastian Hennigs, Jon Andoni Juarez Garcia, Dr. Ralph Gräf and Stefanie Tecklenborg decided in favour of the impressive portfolio about a rare, timid and thus seldomly photographed representative of local birdlife. Sebastian Hennigs: “These photographs demonstrate that apart from a lot of patience, the photographer's close relationship with his subject is also crucial to creating a successful portfolio of photographs. His portrait of this extraordinary bird species is unique.”
Johannes Wassermann has been fascinated by these timid birds since his childhood. “Most of the time, their loud wing beats when they took off was all that gave away their presence.”, says Wassermann. For the photographer it was love at first sight when he first met 'his' hazel grouse, whom he later named 'Gustl'. For more than six years he focussed his photographic work on this project, which provided him with a lot of challenges. “Usually, profound knowledge of his behaviour, of the entire area and his favourite spots as well as my persistence were key to success in finding the bird”, says Wassermann.
Mateusz Piesiak from Poland won the Fritz Pölking Junior Prize, also with a long-term project. Shades of Blue is the name of his portfolio, for which he focussed on depicting special moments in bird life in light conditions dominated by the colour blue. Piesiak: “My favourite time for photography is at dawn, before sunrise, when darkness slowly retreats. I like this stretch of time between night and day, the soft light while nature gradually awakes”.
According to the jury, the range of entered projects was pleasantly broad, covering abstract art photography as well as landscape photography, conservation reports and magnificent animal portraits. “The jury animatedly discussed the merits of series that focussed on the beauty of nature versus those that focused on environmental issues and conservational matters.", explain Hennigs and Gräf. But criticism on the entries is also voiced: a remarkably large number of portfolios did not make it through the first round of judging. Despite many photographs that were well worth seeing individually, the entered series lacked contentrelated coherence or technical and compositional consistency. The jury's advice for all participants of portfolio competitions is this: “We would like to encourage photographers to be braver in their choice of photographs and enter portfolios with a straightforward concept.”
*The international competition Fritz Pölking Prize is hosted annually by the Society of German Nature Photographers (GDT) and Tecklenborg publishing house within the context of the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.*