Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oiled Pelicans Honored with a Photography Prize

Last summer saw the publication of multiple portfolios of images documenting the wildlife harmed by BP's months-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequent to their publication, I saw some suggestions that the photographers deserved journalism prizes for their powerful depictions of the suffering inflicted by the sticky oil slick. One of those photographers, Daniel Beltrá, has now been awarded the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year for 2011. The photo that won him the prize is at right.

Here is a bit more about the winning photograph:
Daniel Beltra, who hails from Spain, entered an exceptional portfolio of pictures entitled The Price of Oil into the WPY's photojournalist category, which he also won. Most were aerial shots of the Gulf of Mexico slick and the desperate efforts made following the blow-out to clean up the mess; but it is the pelican portrait that stands out.

The birds are seen clustered in a box at a rescue facility in Fort Jackson, Louisiana. At that moment, the animals had just gone through the first stage of cleaning, which involved spraying them with a light oil to break up the heavy crude trapped in their feathers. The resulting smelly, mucky residue dripped from the birds' plumage on to a white sheet.

"The problem with birds is that as soon as they get dirty, they try to clean themselves, which means they swallow a lot of oil. By November 2010, I think they had recovered over 6,000 dead birds," Daniel said.

"There was a closed door on the box. Every so often it would be opened and a bird would be taken out to be cleaned properly. I had a 35mm lens and when that door was opened, I would look in and grab three or four shots. The intent was not to disturb them any more than was necessary."
Here is the website for the competition and gallery of winners, including a collection of images by Daniel Beltrá.