How 'squabbling mice' photo was inspired by a text message from a drunk friend

Yahoo News UK
Sam Rowley's <em>Station Squabble</em> won the People's Choice award in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year<em>&nbsp;</em>competition. (Sam Rowley/WPY)
Sam Rowley's Station Squabble won the People's Choice award in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. (Sam Rowley/WPY)

The photographer behind a popular image of mice squabbling on a London Underground platform has revealed how he captured the shot after being inspired by a text message from a drunk friend.

Sam Rowley won theWildlife Photographer of the Year LUMIX People's Choice award after 28,000 people voted for his photo Station Squabble in the “best of the rest” category.

Rowley told Yahoo News UK: “This was a pre-planned project and I decided to spend a week on the station network trying to get this kind of shot. It just unfolded in front of me.”

The photographer has been taking pictures for 15 years and was searching for a more original composition for an urban wildlife project.

He received a text message from a drunk friend about mice running about on the station platform – and the penny dropped.

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Rowley then spent three nights finding the best central London station, lying on platforms until the early hours of the morning and receiving plenty of strange looks from strangers in the process.

“It was just as smelly, horrible and cold as you’d expect,” he said.

When the photographer finally snapped the image of the two subterranean rodents battling over a food crumb dropped by a passenger, he was doubtful.

“I wasn’t even going to enter the competition,” he said. “I actually took the photo three years ago around Christmas and I didn’t like it – I thought it wasn’t my best.”

Rowley says he never thought he would win when he re-entered the competition, but that he has been inundated with positive responses.

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“People have now said they’ll never look at station mice in the same way again,” he said.

With much of our wildlife now centred in cities, Sam’s work focuses on showing animals – such as foxes, birds, rats, deer, owls and kingfishers – in novel and exciting ways.

Reflecting on mice in Station Squabble, he told Yahoo News UK: “These little guys are living the most brutal lives down there. They never see the light of day, they’re in perpetual darkness with 24-hour trains, and never know when they’ll next eat.

“The photo shows the desperation of life, with these two mice fighting over a crumb.

“It’s so insignificant for us, but I have a newfound respect for these creatures.”

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is run by London’s Natural History Museum.

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Sir Michael Dixon, the institution's director, said: ‘Sam's image provides a fascinating glimpse into how wildlife functions in a human-dominated environment. The mice's behaviour is sculpted by our daily routine, the transport we use and the food we discard.

“This image reminds us that while we may wander past it every day, humans are inherently intertwined with the nature that is on our doorstep – I hope it inspires people to think about and value this relationship more.”

There were four runners-up in the LUMIX poll, and the official 2020 winners of the photography contest will be announced in October.

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