Late-night feed. Susan Scott, South Africa.
The world’s top photographic competition, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition held annually in London, announced this year’s winners at a gala event, which took place in the city’s Natural History Museum, recently.
Submissions for this prestigious competition are made by photographers from around the world with only 100 images out of the 45, 000 entries submitted making the final selection.
South African film director, Susan Scott was a recipient of one of those 100 awards given out for her image of two black rhino calves orphaned by rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal.
Scott took the image when she was filming at an undisclosed orphanage for her film, STROOP- Journey Into the Rhino Horn War’.
The feature length documentary, four years in the making, was recently screened in the US to critical acclaim, winning awards at major film festivals such as the San Francisco Green Film Festival and the San Diego International Film Festival.
Last week saw the film win an additional three awards at festivals in LA, the film capital of the world.
Scott said, “While filming STROOP, I often found myself in these incredible situations and I always felt so privileged to be there documenting it for the film. So I often switched the camera off video and would quickly click one or two stills of the moment.”
She added, “A film powerfully transports us into that world and that is what STROOP does, but an image is something special, it’s that moment frozen, always there for us to absorb the power of it.”
Describing the lead up to the shot, Scott said when she followed Axel in to feed the black rhinos, she knew it was pitch black and that she could not light with a flash or a handheld light due to the strict conditions they had set up to reduce stress on the animals.
“So when he walked to where they had been sleeping under the lights to feed them, I was struck by how beautiful the moment looked and of course the black forms in the red light signifies so much. The red is unfortunately the colour of where they came from… red blood from the deaths of their mothers and black for their name, black rhinos… but also the human who represents the species who changed their lives,” she explained.
It also very powerfully sums up the rhino poaching crisis, especially as they are now dependent on humans to live.
“So capturing this moment in the small space of time was difficult due to having to capture it handheld on a grainy ISO, but I think it all adds to the feel of that moment,” added Scott.
She further stated, “I was struck by the two colours – red and black; our human eye captures so much more than what a photograph can, in terms of light range, but this is exactly how that moment looked and I couldn’t even see Axel’s facial expression but I knew he was tired and that the babies were also tired and sleepy.”
For her, it’s such a peaceful moment representing a backstory of tremendous violence.
“So it’s the two colours that I like the most,” she concluded.