Nature Through Lens at Australian Museum

Australian Museum

Over 100 photographs from 74 photographers are featured in the 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition, on display FREE to the public at the Australian Museum from Saturday 17 September – Sunday 11 December 2022

‘Nature’s Prey’ by Ashlee Jansen, a confronting photograph of a humpback whale carcass and circling sharks on the ocean floor in Coral Bay, Western Australia has won the 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year (AGNPY) competition. The powerful image captures a harsh act of Mother Nature, but an important part of the natural ecosystem.

This year’s exhibition includes 14 images featuring sharks, demonstrating the behaviour, beauty and balance this keystone species provides to marine environments. After visiting the AGNPY exhibition, visitors can visit the AM’s own Sharks exhibition, open from Saturday 24 September and on display in the basement touring exhibition hall.

Based in Western Australia, Ms Jansen captured the winning shot in July 2021 after a sub-adult whale died while making the annual migration north along the Ningaloo Reef.

Jansen recalled that tour boats had been watching the young whale for days as it slowly moved through the bay, appearing sicker and slower with more shark bites over its body day after day.

“Friends had spotted an oil slick on the surface caused by the fallen whale. As they got closer, they were hit by the distinct smell and knew that they had found the location of the carcass resting on the ocean floor,” she said.

“Excited to share their find, I rushed out to their location and jumped in the water to find the skeleton of the young humpback whale laying still on the ocean floor. Surrounding the bare bones were several different species of well-fed sharks.”

“We spent a few hours floating above the whale carcass, watching the sharks come closer and closer, unphased by our presence as they searched the area for any remaining food,” she added.


Honoured to be named the 2022 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Ms Jansen, who has been an underwater photographer since 2017, reflected on the important message behind her captivating shot.

“This unforgettable experience is a reminder of how harsh nature and the food chain can be, yet such an important part of the natural ecosystem. One animal’s sacrifice can provide so many nutrients to so many other species of wildlife for years to come,” Jansen explained.

Director and CEO, Australian Museum, Kim McKay AO said that Australia and its neighbours have it all – deserts and snow-capped mountains, rainforest and grassland, beaches and reefs, city and bush. Living in every one of these habitats are species which are equally varied.

“As we come face to face with a rapidly changing planet, it has never been more crucial for us to understand the Australian environment – to comprehend the impact of past and present changes and to appreciate how we can play a part in its survival,” McKay said.

“We’re thrilled to host this outstanding photographic exhibition again this year, a perfect complement to our own Sharks exhibition, opening just a week later. Combined, these two exhibitions paint a captivating picture of the grandeur of our natural world and the impact of human and built environments, and ultimately inspire us to help protect it,” McKay added.

A highlight of the exhibition is a particularly impressive range of images taken by young budding photographers including the winning entry by Cian O’Hagan of a decaying seabird stretched out amongst the sand and is indicative of the unstable nature of life amongst the coastal elements.

Now in its 18th year, AGNPY received 2443 photographs from 602 amateur and professional photographers across 10 countries.

“It was exciting to see entries from people of all ages taking an interest in the frequently overlooked world of nature,” McKay added.

Ms Chrissie Goldrick, Editor-in-Chief, Australian Geographic said:

“This year’s winning image by Ashlee Jansen is a powerful statement about the circle of life and the interdependence of species. It reminds us that all creatures, no matter how large or small, rare or common, need our protection to maintain the fragile balance of nature. It’s amazing how often marine subjects enjoy success in this competition. It bears witness to the vital role the oceans play in the lives of those who call the vast bioregion that includes Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea, home.”

As Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Ashlee receives a cash prize of $10,000 and a travel prize from Coral Expeditions. The Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition are produced by the South Australian Museum.

To complement the exhibition, the Australian Museum presents photographic workshops for keen shutterbugs.


Beginners: Learn the basics of ethical wildlife photography. 19, 20, 26 Nov: 10.30am – 1.30pm


Intermediate: Photographic skills and knowledge will be taken up a notch with advanced shooting techniques and tricks. 19, 20, 26 November; 2.30 – 5.30pm.

The 2022 competition judges were:

  • Nicky Catley – Managing Photo Editor at Australian Geographic with over 20 years’ experience in Australia and the UK on major media mastheads and magazines.
  • Doug Gimesy – Award-winning professional conservation and wildlife photojournalist with a focus on Australian issues.
  • Professor Charlie Huveneers – Director of the Flinders University Marine and Coastal Research Consortium with over 15 years’ experience in shark and ray ecology.

The judges were united in selecting this powerful image as the overall winner and praised Ms Jansen’s photography skills.

“The beauty of the image lies in its artful circular composition, seen in the curves of the whale’s skeletal ribs mirroring the patterns in the sand, keeping our eye within the frame moving between the living and the dead,” they said.

The winner and runners-up of the ten categories have also been announced, including three new categories: Animals in Nature, Astrophotography and Urban Animals.

Animals in Nature:

Winner: Night Light Dining, Jannico Kelk (QLD) Runner-up: Midnight Seahorse, Matt Testoni, (Tas)

Urban Animals:

Winner: The Tunnel of Eerie Blue Light, Zichen Wang (NSW) Runner-up: Sleeping Dragon, Gary Meredith (WA

Botanical: Winner: A pink tomb, James Dorey (SA) Runner-up: Gnarled Mossy Cloud Forest, Justin Gilligan (NSW)

Landscape: Winner: Breaking Dawn, Yan Zhang (NSW) Runner-up: Forces of Nature, Ellie Morris (WA)

Threatened Species (vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species):

Winner: Ocean Giant, Jake Wilton (NSW) Runner-up: Head On, Matty Smith (NSW)

Monochrome: Winner: Fish Rock Cave, Matt Krumins (Vic) Runner-up Crackle and Pop, Jarrod Koh (SA)

Our Impact (depicting human impact on nature):

Winner: Snagged, Alan Kwok (NSW) Runner-up: Landing On Mars, Jiayuan Liang (SA)

Astrophotography (new category in 2022):

Winner: The Outlier, Jason Perry (Vic) Runner-up: Flinders Rise, William Godward (SA)

Portfolio Prize (best portfolio of six images with a shared theme): Winner: Alejandro Trevino (NSW)

Junior (photographers under 18 years of age):

Winner: Impermanence, Cian O’Hagan (NSW) Runner-up: Abstraction of an Icon, Cian O’Hagan (NSW)

Dates: 17 September, 2022 – 11 December, 2022. 10am – 5pm, FREE

Venue: Hintze Hall, Australia Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney.

Key Facts:

Dates: 17 September, 2022 – 11 December, 2022. 10am – 5pm, FREE

Venue: Hintze Hall, Australia Museum, 1 William Street, Sydney.

/Public Release.