Fritz Pölking Prize and Fritz Pölking Junior Prize

Alejandro Prieto from Mexico wins the Fritz Pölking Prize 2020 with a project on the almost two thousand miles long border between Mexico and the USA. The Fritz Pölking Junior Prize was awarded to Florian Smits for a portfolio on Siberian jays.

With the border wall project wins GDT member Alejandro Prieto from Mexico this year's Fritz Pölking Prize. This international prize is a special award of the competition European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, awarded by the German Society for Nature Photography (GDT) and Tecklenborg publishing house since 2007 in memory of the late Fritz Pölking. It is given away annually to honour exceptional work in the field of wildlife photography. This may either be a special wildlife photography project or a portfolio of individual photographs.

For the first time the sessions of the jury, consisting of Gisela Pölking (DE), Orsolya Haarberg (HU/NO), Joan de la Malla (ES), Keith Wilson (GB), Staffan Widstrand (SE), Patrick Brakowsky (DE) and Angel Fitor (ES) were held online due to the corona pandemic.

Among this year's submissions, those that can be assigned to the genre of (nature) reportage were certainly among the strongest. This is hardly surprising at a time when the public debate is increasingly dominated by topics such as climate change, destruction of natural habitats and species protection. Nature narratives are gaining importance for society as a whole – not just for a niche group of biologists and nature photographers.

The nearly two thousand miles long US-Mexico border traverses some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions. This fragile ecosystem is home to a diverse population of mammals, reptiles, birds and plants. Many species migrate between the biomes in the south and north of the continent. They will be especially affected if the US government implements its plans to erect a wall at the border with Mexico.

Patrick Brakowsky: "Alejandro Prieto manages to present his subject in a way that illustrates the situation around the border, while also telling a great deal about different species and their behaviour. His images enable us to reflect on our relationship to nature and our place in the world."

Alejandro Prieto: "My goal in this life is to protect nature and wild animals through my photography. I am trying to show what is happening out there in the hope of having a positive influence on people.”

For the winner of the Fritz Pölking Junior Prize Florian Smit Siberian jays are among the most fascinating bird species. Quite contrary to their reputation as the harbinger of misfortune, this small corvid species provided him with some unforgettably happy moments in Lapland. His pictures lead the viewer deep into a microcosm of wilderness, into the narrowly defined habitat of a single animal species.

GDT EWPY 2020, Fritz Pölking Junior Prize, Florian Smit

Florian Smit: "It is in the nature of these birds to show fairly little timidity towards people. They are always driven by their curiosity. Within a few days the animals got so used to me that they often awaited me chirping away in the early morning hours."

Patrick Brakowsky: With their versatile and powerful visual language Florian Smit's images emphasise the beauty of this fascinating bird while conveying the intimacy between the photographer and his subject in this remote part of northern Europe.

Florian Smit's series about the “Messenger of Misfortune” (the bird’s German name is ‘Unglückshäher’) is a comparatively short story about miniscule events in nature, but its effect can be as intense as a narrative about the border between Mexico and the USA. By showing us a hidden side of nature, it poignantly stresses that nature is becoming ever more fragile and must be protected by each and every one of us.", resumes Brakowsky on behalf of the jury.

The two winners will be honoured at the award ceremony of the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition, which this year takes place without any audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event will be broadcast live in the social media on 22 October 2020 at 8.00 p.m.

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