Our Story So Far
Living and working in East Africa as a wildlife photographer I have, over the past two decades, spent many hours in the humbling presence of some incredible animals and birds. Our world is extraordinarily beautiful and inter-connected and yet the human race is doing its best to over-exploit and damage it. Issues of wildlife conservation and sustainability are gaining momentum globally, yet the messages and images tend to be negative, depressing and enervating.
A few years ago, while looking through my wildlife photos, I came across several that made me laugh out loud: an eagle looking at me through its backlegs or a warthog’s bottom, you know the kind of thing. In a light-bulb moment, it occurred to me that humour might just be the way to attract media attention to the fate of our natural world and in so doing engage people to take action. Thus, was born the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, from my small office in Usa River on the slopes of Mt Meru in northern Tanzania.
Once the idea took shape, I realised that it was a big task to do on my lonesome and some (shhhhh Mich and Tom) might say that my admin skills weren’t up to it either! So, I swiftly dragged my great mate and fellow photographer Tom Sullam in to help me. And a little later on, the awesome, unstoppable, unflappable and hugely patient Michelle Wood. Over the past few years, the competition has given us enormous pleasure; it has been entertaining, chaotic, invigorating and always with one goal in mind:
“to make the competition global, outspoken, noisy and funny so as to sell a positive conservation story while having a great time doing it”.
CWPA is a work in progress but every year our reach grows bigger and our conservation message gets a little louder. We are so proud to be a part of it and happy that we are able to put a smile on your face!!!
Something we’ve come to realise, is that sometimes you have to think things through, rather than merely having “a cunning plan” as the inimitable Baldrick once said. So, we, as a team here at Comedy Wildlife, have thought through exactly what it is we want to achieve through the competition, and here it is:
“Through the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, we want to promote positive awareness of global conservation issues for the preservation of biodiversity and the health and prosperity of the human race.”
This is our mission. Yup, it is certainly ballsy, a bit grandiose, but isn’t that what a mission should be? Aspirational, otherwise what’s the point. We want to engage people around the world in the very important subject of conservation. This is not just something for people who enjoy wildlife or travelling. This is a subject that affects us all. Our planet is in trouble: our natural areas are under threat and our wildlife increasingly endangered. We need to do something now. By creating a fun, lively and positive conservation conversation, we hope to get more and more people talking about conservation, engaging in conservation issues and inspiring others to act.
As a means to achieving our mission, each year we will choose a small grass-roots organisation working with endangered wildlife and promote their work through our competition AND donate 10% of our net revenue to their cause. By working with a modest organisation, rather than a giant global one, any amount that you are able to donate will make a huge difference to the species in question, and donating couldn’t be easier, just click here!
Paul Joynson-Hicks. MBE – Founder CWPA
A wildlife photographer through and through, Paul has lived in East Africa for the last 30 years. After producing some photography books of his work on Uganda, Tanzania and the Luangwa Valley in Zambia he clearly didn't have enough to do, so set up an array of different social enterprises: working with street kids in Uganda; creating recycled artwork with disabled men and women; racing goats to raise money for charities; and selling recycled phones to enable girls to go to school. All of which earnt him his MBE in 2011. Since then, and in between photographic safaris, he has focused on wildlife conservation issues which in turn gave birth to the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, bringing us right up to date! Well, more or less, he still lives in Tanzania, with his Beloved, a couple of feisty young lads, a pair of energetic springers, cats, chickens and there are Sykes monkeys often raiding the veggie patch. Lastly, he is also a sports fans and player, although more enthusiastic than skilled, and don’t let's let Tom talk about his golf or Tom will go on and on and on about how he beat Paul at golf one time with a hole in one…ugh…
Tom Sullam. Co-founder CWPA
Tom’s journey has been an arduous one, which explains the sizeable amount of grey hair that he sports. The truth is, he always wanted to be a photographer, but he just had to do a psychology degree first, then get a job working for a strategic marketing consultancy (he still doesn’t quite understand what he was supposed to do there), then move to a large city based financial services company before finally realising none of these would get him any photography time. Reset button hit, and Tom made his final career lurch where he established himself commercially in the world of interiors photography, and on the fine art side working with renowned landscape photographer Charlie Waite. Then he met Paul, and well, as they say, the rest is a continual headache. Sorry, the rest is history.
Tom believes himself to be wonderfully funny, in a dry kind of way, and can often start a story which seemingly has no end. Paul and Mich have to this day (until now) tried not to mention it. His love of conservation, wildlife, and the general well-being of the planet only gets stronger the older he gets, and the greyer he gets.
Michelle was unfortunate enough to get caught up with Paul and Tom when she commented on a CWPA facebook post on a quiet Sunday morning back in 2017. Fast forward a few years and she is now part of the Comedy family, quite possibly against her wishes but that is entirely her fault as she repeatedly succeeded at every task set to her by Paul and Tom.
Unlike the other two, Michelle is utterly useless behind or indeed, in front of the camera but luckily for Comedy Wildlife, she has spent most of her life fiddling with, looking at, sorting, filing, editing and commissioning photography of one sort or another.
She loves birdsong and swearing, frozen Doubledeckers and warm socks and lives in the middle of a field equidistant between a gin distillery and a brewery – obviously carefully planned – with her family and a dippy black lab called Joey Tribbiani.