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‘I had to pinch myself’: B.C. photojournalist inducted into International Photography Hall of Fame

Paul Nicklen

Photojournalist and non-profit founder Paul Nicklen has been inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nicklen, who lives in Qualicum Beach, B.C., is best known for his work with National Geographic profiling wildlife in the Arctic. This isn’t his first award — he was recognized as BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2012 and received first prize from World Press Photo in 2010.

“I think as a Canadian you always find sort of self-deprecating ways to minimize things or dismiss things,” he told CBC’s All Points West.

“It’s nice to get these little compliments along the way of the journey that you’re doing things right or being recognized for the work you’ve done already. It feels great.”

He and his partner, fellow photographer Cristina Mittermeir, started non-profit organization SeaLegacy in 2014, with the goal of using photos to tell stories about the ocean and raise awareness about conservation.  Nicklen said the amount of support the non-profit has received over the years is how he measures the impact his work has on society.

“First of all, photography is very subjective, and then secondly with wildlife and nature, how do you find out if you’re just entertaining people or if you’re  teaching them a little factoid about something?” he said.

Other 2019 hall of fame inductees include Tony Vaccaro, WWII photographer, still-life photographer Olivia Parker, and Steve McCurry, who took the acclaimed photo of the Afghan girl, which graced the cover of National Geographic in 1984.

“I had to pinch myself,” Nicklen said. “Just to be standing amongst these amazing people I’ve always looked up to was very humbling.”

Advice to aspiring photographers

Nicklen, 41, remembers being 21-years-old, and trying to get the perfect wildlife shot. But pushing animals to create the desired pose or image is not the way to become a great wildlife photographer, he said.

“As you sort of get older and a little wiser through time you realize that the pictures don’t look good anyway,” he said.

The only way to get an amazing moment with wildlife, as Nicklen has done many times, is for an animal to be relaxed in its natural environment. That means waiting for hours, weeks or even months, allowing an animal to accept that that a human is there and continue living its life normally.

“So many people look at iconic images that the great photographers through time have taken and they want to go copy that work,” Nicklen said. “The power of photography is telling a really beautiful and important, impactful story and you don’t have to go out and push a bunch of animals to do that.”

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