An eastern grey kangaroo stands in a burned eucalyptus plantation in the 2021 BigPicture Grand Prize Image

"Hope in a Burned Plantation" by photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, BigPicture 2021 Grand Prize Winner


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 27, 2021) — The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is excited to announce the winners of this year’s BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition. Nearly 8,400 photographic submissions were entered by world-class photographers representing 68 countries—each image capturing the incomparable beauty of Earth and the diversity of life it fosters.

A gallery of this year’s winning images was just published by bioGraphic, the Academy’s online magazine about science and sustainability and official media sponsor for the BigPicture competition. Gallery photos and captions are available for syndication to interested media outlets upon request.

Competition entries were judged by an esteemed panel of photographers and photo editors, including Jury Chair and renowned wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas, international photo editor Sophie Stafford, and award-winning nature and conservation photographers Michael Aw, Shem Compion, Claudio Contreras Koob, Inka Cresswell, Jasper Doest, Morgan Heim, and Rathika Ramasamy. Photo categories include Terrestrial Wildlife, Winged Life, Landscapes, Waterscapes & Flora, Aquatic Life, Art of Nature, and Human/Nature. This year’s photo essay category, Out of the Ordinary, focuses on images—or the stories behind them—that capture the truly unique and unexpected events that occur in nature.

This year’s Grand Prize image, titled “Hope in a Burned Plantation” by photographer Jo-Anne McArthur of Toronto, Canada, shows an eastern grey kangaroo, a joey in her pouch, standing amid a row of burnt eucalyptus trees in Mallacoota, Australia, evoking the trepidatious sense of hope that many people may be feeling after this long, challenging year. McArthur, who was shadowing efforts to rescue koalas after last year’s devastating bushfires, had just moments to position herself for this poignant image before the kangaroo locked eyes with her and hopped away. Through her photography, McArthur seeks to document the complex relationship humans have with nature. Check out all of this year’s Grand Prize, First Place, and category finalists here.

“There is so much to love about this photo,” says Suzi Eszterhas, BigPicture Jury Chair. “In a single image, McArthur captures both the fragility of our planet and the incredible resilience of nature. While the background shows the scars of Australia’s tragic bushfires, the joey peeking out of mom’s pouch gives us a sense of hope for the future. This kind of powerful imagery inspires us to take action to address climate change and protect all that we stand to lose.”

Since launching in 2014, BigPicture has established a fast-growing reputation within the photography community, receiving one of just a handful of recommendations from “The 2020 Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests” by PhotoShelter, one of the world’s top online photography resources. The competition was also named one of the “Top 15 Photography Contests & Prizes in 2021” by Pixpa, a leading online portfolio service for photographers, and was included in My Modern Met’s list of “30+ Best Photography Competitions to Elevate Your Craft.

Awards include $12,000 in cash prizes and all 49 winning images will be featured in the annual BigPicture photography exhibit, set to open this fall at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Sign up here to stay up-to-date on all things BigPicture and receive an email update when next year’s competition opens

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