On Friday, 13 January, Carsten Peter won the 2nd Annual National Geographic Photographer’s Photographer Award. The award was given out by George Steinmetz at the conclusion of the Geographic’s annual photography seminar:
Perhaps the greatest pleasure I get from being head of the Photographer’s Advisory Board is to give out the annual National Geographic Photographer’s Photographer Award. To me, there is no greater honor than to be recognized by ones peers, especially with a crowd as accomplished as this. The award is for the photographer who has most inspired us by expanding the possibilities of our medium. This definition is purposely vague, as what inspires is almost always something unexpected.
Nowadays, when you can open up Google Earth on your iPhone and see a satellite view of every corner of the earth, people feel that there is nothing left to explore. But this photographer proves them to be dead wrong on virtually every assignment. Although he works in what most people would perceive as the most hazardous locations on earth, he is the opposite of reckless, and mixes courage with curiosity and cool calculation. He knows how to stop at the boundaries of what’s possible, which are way beyond where most of us would go. And he goes there to capture his awe and fascination with the natural world.
We are a semi-nomadic specie with only a few watering holes left to sustain us. And so I guess it is appropriate that I first time I met this individual he was in his tame state… in the hallways of this building. It’s curious that this is how we all know each other… in our tamest state of being, for we are here because of what we do out there. It’s a bit like knowing Mick Jagger from a ride in the record company elevator, but never having seen what he’s like in spandex. So I had to make a few phone calls to see what this individual is like… in GoreTex.
I found out that he once held the world record for the most altitude gained with a motorized paraglider… going form sea level to 12,860 feet on a single flight. And that is a lot of air to have under your feet.
Our honoree seems to prefer working in zones where technology usually fails. One time when he was in the field with a TV crew, they had seven TV cameras go down in one day, and nothing was working, except our honoree, who was still shooting and ended up winning an Emmy for his efforts. This is a guy who really knows how to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.
I spoke with a writer who had accompanied our honoree up the side of an active volcano. The writer asked what to do in case the volcano erupted while they were up on the rim. He said don’t run, but instead look up, that way you can dodge the incoming blobs of molten lava. This same writer noted how odd it was that our honoree, who was often the closest one to the rim, was the only person who finished the trip without any burn holes in his fleece jacket.
And while our honoree has a thick hide, he also has a soft heart. On a recent assignment in the Congo, he organized a photo competition for street kids, buying their cameras and providing the processing and prize money.And while the idea of this award is to have recognition from your peers, this year’s honoree was also the champion in the modern arena of public opinion. He had a photo from his winning coverage viewed over 19 million times in four weeks on the National Geographic website, a multiple of any other story.
So without any further froth, I would like to present THE SECOND ANNUAL NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER’S PHOTOGRAPHER AWARD TO to our very own Ice King and Rock Star, Carsten Peter!