‘Explosive creation of life’: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 given to underwater scene

By Independent Staff
Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed at an online awards ceremony.

Selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta was announced as this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his enigmatic image, Creation, that captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Every year, for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July.

After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.

Chair of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund “Roz” Kidman Cox OBE, said: “The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty. It also captures a magical moment – a truly explosive creation of life – leaving the tail-end of the exodus of eggs hanging for a moment like a symbolic question mark.”

Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “This year’s Grand Title winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed.

“In what could be a pivotal year for the planet, with vital discussions taking place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s Creation is a compelling reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t address humanity’s impact on our planet.

“The protection provided to this endangered species by the biosphere reserve highlights the positive difference we can make.”

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London

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