New Jersey native Ashleigh Scully will receive one of NANPA’s Outstanding Young Photographer of the Year Awards during the 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, April 29-30. Ashleigh was one of the 2017 NANPA High School Scholarship Program participants, though she’d been photographing wildlife since she was eight years old. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including winning the 11-14 age category in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and in the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards Youth Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2017 after receiving Highly Honored recognition the previous three years. Her photos have been shown in galleries from Jackson Hole to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, to London’s Natural History Museum. She’s led workshops and was named a spokeswoman for Girls Who Click.
More about Ashleigh
Ashleigh said, “through nature photography I hope I achieve the ability to inspire others. I hope to change negative thoughts and perceptions and make people believe that we share this world with wildlife. Photography is so powerful and inspiring change is what is most needed right now.”
While New Jersey may not sound like a Mecca for wildlife photography, some of her favorite images have come from close to home. A family of Eastern screech owls nested in her back yard. She also encountered red foxes, hawks and other wildlife nearby. She’s also been fortunate to travel to Grand Teton, as her family often spends time in Jackson Hole. She’s photographed wildlife from Tanzania to British Columbia and hopes to inspire other young women through her photos and work with groups like Girls Who Click.
“I started photography just taking pictures of wildlife, as simple as that,” she says. “As I started to dive more into the world and purpose of photography and, specifically, wildlife photography, I was challenged to tell stories through my photos that would both persuade and inspire people. My goal now is to create empathy towards any of the subjects I photograph.”
She’s really grown as a photographer (she’s now six feet, two inches tall!) and is now making waves as an athlete at a Division I college. Between her studies and athletics, she hasn’t been able to get out with her camera as often a she’d like, but hopes to continue photographing wildlife through her time in college. Ashleigh’s excited to see where photography takes her and is looking forward to branching out into areas she hasn’t experienced yet, such as underwater photography.
Ashleigh heard about NANPA and the High School Scholarship Program through kids that had done it in previous years. “I had the most amazing experience when I went and was able to connect with so many other kids my age who shared the same passion as me. We were all able to learn from each other in just a week and really grow as photographers. It supported me tremendously by providing equipment and mentors for us. The most valuable part of NANPA for me is that they were able to connect me with so many other young photographers. It is not the most common hobby for teenagers so I was really thankful to be able to share that experience and not feel so alone as a young photographer in this world.
“Network and community are two extremely important aspects of photography that I have luckily found throughout the years” Ashleigh continued. “Having friends out in the photography world, especially young photographers your own age, is so valuable and was particularly important throughout my upbringing as a growing photographer. I’ve found that social media is the best tool to reach out and make friends, I’ve been able to do both with people in my area and from all around the world.”
About the award
NANPA established the Outstanding Young Photographer of the Year Award in 2019 to recognize photographers between the ages of 15 and 30 whose growing body of work demonstrates increasing maturity and who exhibit the following criteria:
- Personal Vision: The nominee demonstrates a commitment to achieving a positive impact upon nature photography.
- Quality of Work: The nominee’s nature photographic imagery demonstrates an ever-increasing maturity in artistic ability and craftsmanship.
- Dedication to Learning: The nominee demonstrates a commitment to increasing his/her nature photography skill sets, preferably through independent study (of photography and nature) and self-assigned nature photography projects.