Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Wild Images Award Winning Guest Photographer – Polly Fenton

16th August 2022

by Inger Vandyke

At Wild Images I’ve always been extremely proud of the photographs that our guests produce, even when they evoke thoughts of “Wow!  Why didn’t I see that?” or “Gosh, how did I miss that shot?” or  even “Where was I at the time?”

All jokes aside, as someone who teaches both wildlife and people photography around the world, one of the most amazing aspects of this work is to watch a guest’s portfolio unfold before my eyes.  I have heard people say in the past that they hate photography tours because everyone travelling captures the same photos.  I’ve found the opposite to be more true.  I have never, ever seen a group of photographers on a tour line up and get the exact same photos.  Everyone sees a scene in their own unique way and for me, as their teacher and leader of their trip, the beauty of some of their images has moved me to tears.

It has also made me rethink a lot of my own work when I shoot alongside guests who have creative ideas.

At Wild Images we take a very broad spectrum of people on tours with us every year.  We have people coming along with super-expensive professional gear who know exactly what they are doing, they just need us to take them there.  We also have many guests who create photo books, enter competitions, exhibit their work, do presentations to their local photography clubs about their travels and we even have extremely talented mobile phone and iPad photographers coming along to capture their trips to make books or paint the images they make while they travel with us.  The spectrum of interests and experiences our guests have is incredibly broad.

Just occasionally though, we get a guest who goes off to win a huge raft of awards from their trip with us. Australian photographer Polly Fenton is one of those guests.

Polly surrounded by curious Dassanech children, all eager to see her photos (image by Inger Vandyke)

Polly joined Wild Images in the Omo Valley in 2019.  Not only was it her first ever trip to Ethiopia, it was her first ever trip to Africa.  Ethiopia is an intriguing choice for someone new to photography in Africa.  It has a beguiling beauty but it is one of those countries that you need to learn a little about before you go piloting your way around the country.

The Omo Valley sees many photographers every year.  Indeed the entire region thrives on photography tourism.  It is the stuff of legend, the spectacular tribal people living in vernacular villages on the edge of the greatest river in the Horn Of Africa.  However, to get the most out of your photography experience in the Omo, you really need to travel with someone who knows it well.  For photography newbies or inexperienced African travellers, the Omo Valley can eat some travellers alive.  Over the years I’ve spoken to many people who have travelled there and had nightmare experiences as they’ve struggled with inexperienced guides, bribery, logistics and being caught up in random tribal issues they were completely unaware of before they left Addis.

The difference between independent travel and going with a photographer who knows the region intimately is profound.  Wild Images carefully manages your visits so you avoid a lot of the hassle that you might experience on a general tour.  Alongside that, we spend time with our guests, helping them to perfect their photos while we stay as close as we possibly can to traditional villages, enabling us to visit when the light is beautiful.  From extensive experience in Africa, our guides not only know the people they meet on our tours but they also have lasting friendships with them that we all cherish.

Polly joined me on our 2019 tour and I recently found out, with some humour, that she has won so many awards from our trip together that she can’t actually remember them all!!!!  Her images won a raft of awards both in Australia and internationally with the highlight of them appearing in the exhibition of the highly regarded Imago International Portrait Awards in Mexico City in 2021.  It was quite spectacular news which catapulted us to honour her with the title of our most highly awarded guest!

Join us in congratulating Polly on this tremendous effort.  We are excited for what lays ahead in her future career!

– Inger Vandyke

Inger Vandyke

Australian professional wildlife photojournalist and expedition leader Inger Vandyke now lives in the Forest of Bowland in northern England with her partner and fellow Wild Images photographer Mark Beaman. Inger has a long-established photographic career publishing images and stories in over 30 publications worldwide.