An image of a wasp spider in its web has won the overall top spot in the prestigious RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2021.
The striking winning photo, entitled ‘Hidden Below’, was taken by 17 year old Ben Hancock-Smith from Guildford, Surrey, after being singled out from more than 6,500 entries this year.
Every year, the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards invites youngsters aged 18 years and under to capture the animal kingdom on a camera or a mobile device.
Overall winner Ben had entered his powerful photo into the ‘Small World’ category. As well as being named this year’s Awards’ ‘Overall Winner’ his wasp spider photo won first prize in the ‘Small World’ category. This category was launched in 2020 specifically to recognise how measures to control the pandemic meant young people had to stay close to home to take their photos.
Winner Ben said: “I’m so happy that the judges liked my photo so much. I found this wasp spider on its web down in the grass and it was quite hidden away. I laid down to try and get lower than the spider so I could get the sunset coming through the grass in the picture.”
It is the second year Ben has won an award in the RSPCA’s annual photo competition for young people. In the 2020 awards, he was runner up in the 16-18 category for ‘The Chase’ – an image of a swan chasing another swan
This year’s awards were blind-judged online by a panel of experts in wildlife photography, including photographer and TV presenter and RSPCA Vice President Chris Packham. Also on the panel were wildlife photographer and former competition winner Catriona Parfitt, professional wildlife photographer and photographic guide Ellie Rothnie, wildlife photographer, filmmaker and previous winner Dani Connor and the RSPCA’s multimedia manager Andrew Forsyth and senior photographer Emma Jacobs.
Judge and awards host Chris Packham said: “Ben’s photo of a wasp spider really stood out to all of us on the judging panel. We felt it was a very skillful capture, with a carefully considered composition bringing colour into the scene. It’s certainly unique in its approach to an often overlooked species, and a very worthy winner.
“The high quality and range of animal photos received this year has been astounding, particularly given the restrictions of the pandemic. We do know that several of this year’s finalists took up photography when the first covid lockdown happened in 2020, which just shows how rewarding taking eye-catching pictures can be even during the most difficult of times.
“The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards is a true celebration of the animal kingdom and one I feel honoured to be involved with. Every person shortlisted should be proud of their contribution to a world that’s kinder to all animals.”
Other category winners and runners-up in the main Awards* included Isabella Martin (aged 9), who took first prize in the Under 12 Mobile Phone & Devices category for her photo of Hattie the kitten playing on her bed (pictured); Ollie Smith (aged 12), who won the 12-15 Mobile Phone & Devices category with his picture of Stingray Steve (pictured); and Joshua Myers (18) who won a Commended in the Portfolio category with his series of five dog photos (his image Ozzie the spaniel is pictured)
There are ten categories; under 12 (taken with a camera), 12 – 15 years (taken with a camera), 16 – 18 years (taken with a camera), under 12 (taken on a mobile/device), 12 – 15 years(taken on a mobile/device), 16 – 18 y(taken on a mobile/device), Picture Perfect Pets, Small World, Portfolio and Instagram.
The winning images across the ten categories were announced during an online awards ceremony hosted by Chris Packham on Thursday, 16 December 2021. The ‘Overall Winner’ was chosen from the ten category winners by the judges. Earlier this year, a special social media ‘Instagram’ RSPCA Young Photographer Awards category took place online and in addition, a selection of photos from this year’s Mobile Phone & Devices and Picture Perfect Pets will be put to the public vote in the spring of 2022 to decide the ‘People’s Choice Award.
Reflecting on the strength of the competition this year, Chris Packham added: “I like looking at the work of young photographers as they are able to make pictures which are really, really exciting. Very often they haven’t learned the perceived rules that as adults we impose on ourselves when we’re making things like photographs. As a consequence, young people see with fresh eyes and they break the silly rules which don’t really exist anyway.
“We’re especially pleased that the Mobile Phone and Devices category is now firmly established, because as no specialist camera is required, it really opens up the competition to almost anyone. We hope that seeing some of the wonderful images which have been submitted this year will inspire other young people to enter the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards next year.”
For a full gallery of the winning images* please visit: https://young.rspca.org.uk/ypa/home