Passers-by in London’s underground stations give Sam Rowley a strange look as he lies on the platform with his camera at the ready.
But it’s worth the effort: his photo of two mice fighting over breadcrumbs just won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year audience award.
The two brawlers in action were also a very special moment for experienced mouse photographers like Sam Rowley. Their fight for breadcrumbs that passers-by had carelessly dropped lasted for fractions of a second before the victorious mouse scuttled away triumphantly.
“I hope the photo shows people the untold drama that can be found in the most ordinary cityscape,” says Rowley.
Sam Rowley shows mice mid-battle inside a London Underground station
© Sam Rowley/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
His photo was shortlisted for the Lumix People Choice Award 2019, chosen by the Natural History Museum London from over 48,000 images from around the world.
Internet users could vote for their favorite picture with a click of the mouse. Rowley prevailed against meaningful pictures: portraits of an orangutan being forced to box fights against other members of the same species; white reindeer that almost disappear in the white of the arctic; or intimate moments between a baby rhino and his human surrogate mother.
“Behavior of mice determined by our everyday life”
And museum director Michael Dixon also fully agrees with the choice on the Internet: “The picture provides a fascinating insight into how the animal world functions in an environment dominated by humans. The behavior of the mice is determined by our everyday life, by how we move around what food we throw away.”
The winning image serves as a reminder of how deeply connected humans are to the natural world on their doorstep and could help make that relationship more appreciated, Dixon said.
Rowey’s mice are on display at the London Museum in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition until May 31.
Sam Rowley shares how he got into this project of photographing mice:
“Obviously every Londoner knows about mice in the underground but I did a bit of research and found that nobody had actually photographed them. It felt like a story that needed to be told.”
Sam’s winning shot beat entries from all over the world, with images taken in Lebanon, Canada, the UK and Spain all picking up the ‘highly commended’ accolade.
Capturing the mice mid-fight was no mean feat, with Sam having to wait patiently for one week for the split-second of action.
He said: “It involved me lying on my stomach for five hours a night for a week to get the perspective nobody else sees.
“The main challenge wasn’t the mice but actually having to dodge people and trying to shut down conversations with them.
“It was really nice that people took an interest in what I was doing but every time someone spoke to me it scared the mice away.
“As it was late at night and approaching Christmas lots of these people were hammered too, so it really was quite tough.”
Sam did not want to reveal which station he took the photo at but said it was in central London.
He said this week’s sudden media frenzy, which has seen him interviewed by a wide range of media including Sky, ITV and BBC, has been ‘crazy but good fun’.
Great job Sam! we think it’s great that this, your photo, was awarded the prize.
Mainly because these animals are treated like dirt by most.
When their fate is shown at the London Museum, maybe things will change.
My best regards to all, Venus