African forest elephants, the elusive cousin to the African savanna elephant, live in the dense rainforests of western and central Africa. Smaller than their savannah-based relatives, the African forest elephant is a critically endangered species.
Doest specializes in creating inspiring visual stories highlighting the relationship between humans and nature. With an educational background in ecology, Doest intimately understands his subjects and aims to use photography to instigate positive change concerning how people interact with and consider nature.
Doest’s prize-winning story, A fragile refuge for forest elephants, shows the rainforest of Lopé National Park in Gabon. It is one of the world’s last safe havens for African forest elephants.
However, climate change is affecting the growth of fruit in the rainforest, and as a result, significantly reducing the food supply for the elephants and other large mammals; this change may have dire consequences for the entire ecosystem. Doest’s photo story also highlights that even when direct human contact with an ecosystem is limited, such as in the protected Lopé National Park, the impact of human behavior can still be felt.
Additional images from Doest’s prize-winning photo story are available on the German Society for Nature Photography (GDT) website. Doest is a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund. More of Doest’s work is available on his website.
Fritz Pölking Junior Prize 2023
Alongside Doest’s victory for the standard Fritz Pölking Prize, young photographer Mateusz Piesiak has won the Fritz Pölking Junior Prize 2023 for his photo series showing a waterlogged sunflower field that became a paradise for overwintering finches.
“A few years ago, a sunflower field close to my home could not be harvested because the soil was waterlogged after summer rains,” Piesiak explains. As summer waned, the seed-filled flowers attracted “countless” finches with a new food source.
Piesiak got his first camera at age 13 and has become a very passionate photographer. “When photographing timid birds, I actually enjoy the experience of sitting in my hide — I feel like a visitor in the front row of the theater, allowed to witness the great spectacle of nature at close range.”
GDT International Nature Photography Festival
Doest’s and Piesiak’s work will be displayed at this year’s GDT International Photography Festival on October 27, 2023. The festival will also feature the winners of the esteemed European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 competition.
The Fritz Pölking Prize has been awarded 16 times since Pölking passed away in 2007. The German photographer and writer was extremely well-respected and a prolific artist and author. He was one of the founders of the German Society of Nature Photographers and had been named “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” during his career. He leaves behind a powerful legacy, more than 30 books, and a passion for nature photography that lives on through the prize named in his honor.
Image credits: Images courtesy of the German Society of Nature Photographers. Individual photographers are credited in the captions.