Crikey! Steve Irwin's Son Wins Prestigious Photography Award

Crikey! Steve Irwin's Son Wins Prestigious Photography Award

The world mourned when the crocodile whisperer and wildlife personality, Steve Irwin, was stabbed through the heart by a stingray. However, it seems his talents have carried over to his son, Robert, who has just claimed the top prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Steve Irwin was revered in Australia, and across the world, because he was a lovable rogue with a big personality and a genuine love for the animals he interacted with. Sure, he was parodied in shows like The Simpsons, but almost always in a positive way. Thus, it was such a shock when news filtered through over a decade ago that he'd been killed by a stingray. As sad as it was to lose such an Aussie icon, it was also just as sad to think of the two young children he left behind. However, both children are faring extremely well and have created extraordinarily good lives for themselves. 

Evidence of that was seen recently when Robert Irwin was announced the winner of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 People’s Choice Award. Robert, who first picked up a camera when he was six years old, took a photo of the bushfires that absolutely ravaged Australia's coastlines through the early part of 2020. Finalists included leading wildlife photographers such as National Geographic’s Ami Vitale. Robert’s image – a drone shot of a bushfire front in the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, stood out as “stirring and symbolic”, said Natural History Museum director Doug Gurr. Not many people know that Steve Irwin was a very accomplished photographer, and it seems his son, Robert, is making a very good fist of continuing his father's legacy.

You can see the winning image as well as some of the other images that made it to the final here. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

Log in or register to post comments

I remain impartial! On a related note, it seems that photo contest judges are still in the gaga googoo stage when they see drone shots. I can’t tell you how many drone shots have won various contests over the last few years, many of which I thought were pretty average outside of the unique perspective.

In defence of Robert, I had a look at his website and some of his other work, and a lot of it is very good. I wonder if he surfs...?

My understanding is that the judging for this contest is done blindly without knowing which photographer submitted the image - so its very impressive he made it to the people's choice shortlist & did so on his own merits rather than his fame! However after the shortlist, the winning image in people's choice is determined by public voting, not the judges - sadly thats not exactly an even playing field when you have someone who has 2.5 million followers just on instagram competing with many others that have either just a few 1000 or no social media presence. I like his image, but it wasn't my personal fav of the people's choice options - impossible to say whether it would have done as well if the photographer's name was kept hidden and promoting via social media was not a factor.

I despise this type of judging. The contest directors do it because it gets them exposure and follows so their intent is understandable, yet shallow and disingenuous. When I see friends/fellow photographers posting every day during contest windows "go to X Instagram account and tag my name and vote for me" I shake my head. It's even worse when contest directors allow people to vote as often as they like, coz then people with big followings just hound their followers day after day until the contest closes. Then when/if they win they make out it's coz of the quality of their media games are so fickle. Alas, I digress

To me the jury is still out as far as drone photos are concerned. Robert could not have gotten this particular photo without the use of a drone. (Except by plane or satellite photo of course.) It is an interesting photo but not worthy of the award in my opinion. That said Robert is an outstanding young man with an admirable concern and empathy for nature and wildlife. Steve would be so proud of his kids today as we all are.

I think drones are still relatively unique so if you pair a good photographer with a drone you’re going to get something that grabs the attention of people because it likely hadn’t been seen a lot from that particular perspective. For example, how many drone shots have you seen of Santorini’s blue dome churches vs. the millions of standard perspective shots of Santorini’s blue dome churches?

When drone ownership becomes oversaturated then the novelty will be lost and it will become “meh”. But we’re not there yet