A picture of two little penguins cuddling as the lights of Melbourne’s CBD twinkle in the background has won a top photography award.
German photographer Tobias Baumgaertner’s image, taken at St Kilda in 2019, took out the community prize for Oceanographic magazine’s Ocean Photograph Awards.
“These two Fairy penguins poised upon a rock overlooking the Melbourne skyline were standing there for hours, flipper in flipper, watching the sparkling lights of the skyline and ocean,” he wrote on Instagram. The image received more than 57,000 likes on Instagram after Baumgaertner posted it in March this year.
Though a beautiful image, the photo has been slightly controversial after Baumgaertner admitted the story behind the two penguins wasn’t true.
In his original post Baumgaertner said “a volunteer approached me and told me that the white one was an elderly lady who had lost her partner and apparently so did the younger male to the left. Since then they meet regularly comforting each other and standing together for hours watching the dancing lights of the nearby city.”
But in a follow up post, Baumgaertner admitted his previous post had been “romantised” and that the penguins might be related.
“I am a dreamer,… I believe that it is important to have dreams as they make life worth living and give love meaning. I previously shared these penguin images to spread love because that, I believed, is what the world needed most right now. It was never intended to be scientifically accurate as it was quite obviously romanticised by adding my personal feelings of being separated from and longing for the one I can’t live without,” he wrote.
“I’ve been advised by the scientific community that anthropomorphising animals can have a negative influence on them as it can lead to inappropriate behaviours towards wild animals”.
St Kilda’s penguin colony can normally be seen every night of the year at the breakwater at the end of St Kilda Pier. There are about 1400 little penguins in the colony. Viewing is currently closed due to COVID-19. For details, see stkildapenguins.com.au
While the story about the penguins’ relationship may not be true, the image remains accurate and is one of several Baumgaertner took of the penguins. More of his work can be found on his Instagram page as well as at tobiasvisuals.com. A rundown of all the winners can be found here.