Some of the most feared native New Yorkers are the subject of a photograph honored by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

C. Hamilton James immersed himself in New York City's shadowy corners to photograph rats for National Geographic, right there at street-level. The resulting story noted that of all animals, humans possibly feel the strongest about rats—"Rats have a reputation for being filthy and sneaky. They’re seen as signs of urban decay and carriers of pestilence. More than any other city creature, they inspire fear and disgust. People hate rats." Still, they're photogenic little monsters.

One of the accompanying photos — showing a group of rats doing their rat things on Pearl Street — was named the winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year's Urban Wildlife category. From the Wildlife Photographer of the Year's description:

On Pearl Street, in New York’s Lower Manhattan, brown rats scamper between their home under a tree grille and a pile of garbage bags full of food waste. Their ancestors hailed from the Asian steppes, travelling with traders to Europe and later crossing the Atlantic. Today, urban rat populations are rising fast. The rodents are well suited for city living – powerful swimmers, burrowers and jumpers, with great balance, aided by their maligned long tails. They are smart – capable of navigating complex networks such as sewers. They are also social and may even show empathy towards one another. But it’s their propensity to spread disease that inspires fear and disgust. Attempts to control them, though, are largely ineffective. Routine poisoning has led to the rise of resistant rats. Burrows have been injected with dry ice (to avoid poisoning the raptors that prey on them), and dogs have been trained as rat killers. The survivors simply breed (prolifically) to refill the burrows and gorge nightly on any edible trash left around. Lighting his shot to blend with the glow of the street lights and operating his kit remotely, Charlie realized this intimate street-level view.

To get the shot, James used a Sony α7R III + 16–35mm f4 lens at 24mm; 1/20 sec at f11; ISO 4000; Sony flash; PocketWizard trigger. He also shared some more of his images on Instagram:

Are these rats "heat dumping"?

View this post on Instagram

Bros - just hangin

A post shared by Charlie Hamilton James (@chamiltonjames) on

James also did a fair amount of creeping:

View this post on Instagram

Back in NYC hangin with my buddies

A post shared by Charlie Hamilton James (@chamiltonjames) on

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, which are developed and produced by the Natural History Museum in London, were announced earlier this week, and the top winner—aka the Wildlife Photographer of the Year—was Yongqing Bao for his image of a marmot and a fox in Tibet.

"Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment. The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance," Chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox, said. "Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough, but to have captured such a powerful interaction between a Tibetan fox and a marmot – two species key to the ecology of this high-grassland region – is extraordinary." Sure, but the rats still win our dirty New York hearts.

Click through the photographs to see the other winners. And if you're in London, go see the exhibit!