The jury's comment
by Sebastian Hennigs and Ralph Gräf
"Same procedure as every year" – in keeping with this film line, a small group (Gisela Pölking, members of the Tecklenborg family and some GDT photographers) gathered again during this extraordinary hot summer to select the winners of this year's Fritz Pölking Prize.
Considering the relatively modest number of top-class portfolio competitions in nature photography, we, as the jury of the Fritz Pölking Prize, were surprised to learn that only 94 participants opted to enter a portfolio in this renowned competition that also has an attractive prize money attached.
However, the range of pieces was pleasantly broad, covering abstract art photography as well as landscape photography, conservation reports and magnificent animal portraits.
from left: Gisela Pölking, Dr.Ralph Gräf, Stefanie Tecklenborg, Sebastian Hennigs, Paul Kornacker, Marc Hesse
It was somewhat disappointing that a remarkably large number of portfolios did not make it through the first round of judging, more often than not because the selection of photographs – which were well worth seeing individually – did not indicate content-related coherence as is necessary in a portfolio competition.
For example, there were incomprehensible shifts between colour and black & white images within one portfolio, brisk changes of formats or single images that just would not fit in with the rest, be it for context or quality. Many participants clearly could not resist the temptation to enter more photographs than were necessary for their story, rating otherwise great material down by redundant "wild shots". As so often, less would have been more.
But there were also some entries whose qualities as potential awardees of the Fritz Pölking Prize revealed themselves immediately. The jury animatedly discussed the merits of series that focused on the beauty of nature versus those that focused on environmental issues and conservational matters. In the end, our choice fell on the impressive portfolio about a rare, timid and thus seldomly photographed representative of local birdlife. The photographs from the lives of hazel grouse by Johannes Wassermann left a lasting impression on us. They 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.
In the junior category, the chosen winner is 22-year old Polish nature photographer Mateusz Piesiak, who had entered a wonderful winter portfolio. His photographs succeed to recreate the cool and colour-reduced atmosphere of winter in especially impressive images.
For future competitions, we would like to encourage photographers to be braver in their choice of photographs and enter portfolios with a straightforward concept. Too often, things seem to evolve around single competition photos that have already received their praise on the internet and in social media. This jury process revealed once more the enormous effect well-arranged and well-conceived portfolios may have on the viewer.