It was 1998 when the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to make the trophies for the winners of two categories, the Eric Hosking Award and the Gerald Durrell Award. After a few years they asked if I would take over making the trophies for the overall winners.
Every trophy featured the animal in the winning photograph, so every year was different and I never knew what I was going to have to make. It could be anything from a yellow hammer bird to a Yunnan snub-nosed monkey. Some were more difficult than others, but I always enjoyed the challenge.
I attended a number of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award ceremonies which were held in the entrance hall in the Natural History Museum, where the competition is based. The ceremonies were like the Oscars for wildlife photographers!
The tables were set around the diplodocus, dramatically spot lit, while a huge screen hanging above the staircase added to the excitement. It was an event devoted to wildlife and it was always a very exciting and inspiring occasion. This arrangement continued for 16 years until 2013 when the competition organisers decided take the awards in a different direction. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when the organisers asked me to make a special trophy for the competition this year.
The competition had introduced a new Lifetime Achievement Award and the first recipient was to be one of the biggest names in wildlife photography, Frans Lanting. I was to make the trophy.
Needless to say, I was honoured to be making a trophy for a photographer whose work I have long admired and whose books adorn my bookshelves. I took my inspiration from perhaps his most iconic image, a photograph depicting a family of elephants at a waterhole at dusk beneath a spectacular lilac sky. I would make a confident looking matriarch elephant standing her ground.
Last night I had the great honour of receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition during a gala ceremony in London’s magnificent Natural History Museum. To be recognised with so many peers, colleagues, friends and brilliant young photographers in attendance was a moving experience. I was given a wonderful sculpture of an elephant. ~ Frans Lanting, Instagram
With so much detail to capture in the wrinkles and textures of the animal, it took 22 hours to complete the sculpture. I elected to smoke fire the piece to give it a natural finish. Reclaimed slate was the natural choice for the plinth.