We invited a panel of esteemed nature photographers, writers, and photo editors—chaired by award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas—to judge and select from this year's competition entries.
“BigPicture has become one of the most prestigious nature photography contests in the world. Every year, the judging panel has the privilege of seeing thousands of exquisite images from all corners of the globe, so many of which just blow your mind.”
—Suzi Eszterhas, BigPicture Jury Chair
Suzi Eszterhas is an award-winning wildlife photographer who is best known for her work documenting newborn animals and family life in the wild. Her photographs have been published in over 100 magazine cover and feature stories. She has 21 books in print and another three in progress. A dedicated conservationist, Suzi lends her images and expertise to help raise funds and awareness for several environmental organizations around the globe. Suzi is also the Founder and Executive Director of Girls Who Click, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging young women to enter the male-dominated profession of wildlife photography.
Jahawi Bertolli is a National Geographic Explorer, iLCP Associate Fellow, NEWF Mentor, American Society of Cinematographers Fellow, award-winning filmmaker, musician, photographer, and TV presenter. Growing up in Kenya, Bertolli nurtured a deep curiosity and love for the natural world. His work highlights themes of environmental and marine conservation to portray the beauty, power, and vulnerability of wild environments. His current focus is on sharing African wildlife and conservation stories in an innovative way—through the eyes of communities directly in touch with the environment and its animals or through music that connects to our ancestral past through his National Geographic supported First Rock Project. He was a Global Voices Finalist at the Jackson Wild Media Awards for his short film Bahari Yetu and was on the Official Selection at the 2021 International Wildlife Film Festival. His work has been displayed in D.C.’s Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the UN Headquarters in New York. Bertolli is a CBBC Planet Defender, presenting in a new CBBC hallmark series made by the BBC Natural History Unit, and former co-host of the Ecoflix series The Pulse and PBS YouTube series In Our Nature. He is also a trustee and the vice chairman of the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust.
Known widely for his camerawork on BBC’s Planet Earth II series and Nat Geo Wild’s Earth Live, Sandesh Kadur is a wildlife photographer, documentary filmmaker, and National Geographic Fellow who sees the world from a very different angle. Using the power of imagery, he exposes the need for conservation and encourages protection of the world’s biodiversity. His passion for wildlife sets him apart and has earned him worldwide respect as one of the most promising photographers and documentary filmmakers of his generation. He has received the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice Award and the North American Nature Photographers (NANPA) Vision Award in recognition of early career excellence and continuation of vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation, and education. Prior to these, he won the International Conservation Photographer Award (2012), CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year (2008). He is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. His photographs have been published widely in books and magazines worldwide. He is the founder of Felis Creations – a media and visual arts company based in India, that focuses on creating content that inspires conservation.
Karen Kasmauski has been an industry-leading photographer and visual communications specialist for decades, with a huge portfolio which examines issues of science, public health, and global change. During her two decades as a National Geographic photographer, Karen produced 25 major stories for the magazine, eventually being awarded their prestigious Photographer in Residence position in 1999, as well as being one of five women photographers featured in the magazine’s first Women Photographers at National Geographic publication. A mentor to women in the industry, Karen has worked with Girls Who Click in addition to many other nonprofits and foundations. She has developed workshops on visual storytelling for CRS, Capacity Waterloo, National Geographic, Maine Media Workshops, Girls Who Click and Jhpeigo. A Senior iLCP Fellow, Karen is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Knight Fellowship at Ohio University and the very first ‘Grant for Good’ from Getty Images, used to document the transition of an environmental nonprofit and the tools they used for empowering grassroots leadership. Her published works NURSE: A World of Care and IMPACT: From the Front lines of Global Health, were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in community service. She is currently working with National Geographic Expeditions—focusing on solutions to counter the United States’ high mortality rate for Black women during birth, and with the International League of Conservation Photographers—on documenting abandoned, toxin-shedding gold mines along the rivers running into the Chesapeake Bay.
Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning photojournalist and the founder of We Animals Media. For almost two decades, she has traveled during a large part of each year to document the plight of animals on all seven continents and share their stories worldwide. She has authored three books and was the subject of a documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine. Jo-Anne’s photography and writing has been in publications such as National Geographic and National Geographic Traveller, The Washington Post, The Guardian, VICE, Huffington Post, and, most recently, BigPicture’s 2023 book, Seeing It All: Women Photographers Expose Our Planet. Her most recent awards include a Highly Commended image in the 2022 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition; the 2021 BigPicture Grand Prize; 2021 AEFONA’s First Prize, Man and Nature category; 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice finalist, and the 2020 Nature Photographer of the Year, Man and Nature category winner.
Sophie Stafford is a passionate conservationist and charity communication consultant who has judged many of the world’s nature photography competitions. As Editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine, she judged and co-managed the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for nearly 10 years. She has traveled the world to join the juries of natural history photo contests, and has been part of the BigPicture team since its inception in 2014, including serving as contributing editor of the competition's 2023 publication, Seeing It All: Women Photographers Expose Our Planet. Sophie is an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and reviews and judges photography for a myriad of natural history magazines that she produces for international conservation charities. Since its inception, Sophie has been a Contributing Photo Editor and feature writer for bioGraphic, the California Academy of Science’s nature storytelling magazine. She currently serves as a consulting editor to The Tree Council, helping them to transform their loyalty communications into powerful voices for their brand values, and improve supporter engagement and loyalty through the power of visual storytelling.
The world is full of stories. But how many of those stories just tell us what we already know? The gift of the documentary photographer is to challenge our worldviews and grant us insight.
Photographer Kiliii Yuyan tells the stories of lives bound to the land and sea. Informed by ancestry that is both Nanai/Hèzhé (East Asian Indigenous) and Chinese, he searches for human insight through different cultural perspectives. On assignment, he has survived a stalking polar bear, escaped pounding waves diving with sea otters, and found kinship at the edges of the world. Kiliii makes photographic stories for the pages of National Geographic Magazine, TIME, and other major publications.