In March 2014 we opened our WildPhoto Gallery in Longyearbyen, which was the most northernly gallery in the world at 78 degrees North. With this gallery, we could offer a meeting point for new and old clients, and visitors that just wanted to see some nice pictures from Svalbard. We also sold expedition clothing and books through our gallery, and could also give clients and visitors some advice about photographing around Longyearbyen.
In November 2015 we had our first full-chartered expedition to South Georgia on MV Polar Pioneer. This was one of our most successful expeditions, and since that time South Georgia has been - and still is - a very popular destination for our clients and partners.
In March 2016 WildPhoto was the first operator to organize a winter expedition to Svalbard with an expedition ship. On 18 March 2016, we had a landing on Moffen Island (at 80 degrees North) photographing walrus in the snow drift, which most likely was the earliest landing on the island ever. These winter expeditions soon became very popular.
Our expertise and reputation in Polar regions were growing, together with the number of clients and partners who wanted to join us in Svalbard, Antarctica, and South Georgia. In 2017 we organized our #50 photo expedition with ships to Svalbard, and that season we had 15 full-chartered photo expeditions to Svalbard, together with 2 full-chartered expeditions to Antarctica on MV Polar Pioneer, and 2 photo expeditions to Katmai, Alaska.
In 2018 we organized our first photo expedition to East Greenland (Scoresby Sound) with a 12-pax ship. This was a success, especially for the great icebergs and landscapes, and Greenland became a great addition to our photo expeditions in the Arctic. In 2019 we had a photo expedition to both Katmai and Kaktivik in Alaska, with clients photographing both Grizzly bears and Polar bears. By the end of 2019, WildPhoto (and Natrufokus) had grown slowly for 14 years, but soon the whole tourist business would be hit hard.
14 March 2020 we were supposed to start our first winter photo expedition for the season, but the Norwegian government closed the country and Svalbard due to Covid 19. This was a big disappointment for our clients and partners, and it was not a good situation to have an expedition ship in Longyearbyen in "standby" mode. After a few months, we were able to organize 6 photo expeditions in Svalbard in the summer with strict Covid protocols. WildPhoto was the only company to run multiple photo expeditions in Svalbard In summer 2020.
2021 was also challenging for WildPhoto due to the Covid-19 situation with no expedition ships available for our photo expeditions in Svalbard. We rather changed focus to prepare our business for post-covid by becoming part-owners of MV Polar Pioneer and MS Virgo. We were very happy to start our operations on MS Virgo from April 2022 and MV Polar Pioneer in August 2023.