Some of you may have followed the recent discussion concerning Ashley Vincent’s picture ‘The Explosion’ snatching the Nature category as well as the grand prize in the 2012 National Geographic photo contest. The entire discussion revolves around the captive vs wild discussion to which I happen to have a very clear opinion. The 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year wolf shot was a hoax, since the photographer failed to mention the shot was picturing a captive animal, while at the same time the rules don’t allow for shots of captive animals. In that sense there is no comparison to Ashley’s work: the rules allow for pictures of captive animals to be submitted and his caption tells the full story, so I honnestly don’t see what people are nagging about! As long as you don’t start pretending captive animals were actually wild and as long as you don’t refrain from mentioning the truth, there is absolutely no issue in my book! And for those of you who feel NatGeo should only focus on wild animals, they should enter into a discussion with National Geographic instead of running this discussion on the back of Ashley’s picture (it was after all not him defining the rules of the competition).
All this being said, I can only say that I admire Ashley’s work (check out his 500px portfolio here) and that I am stoked he agreed to share his personal thoughts in a guest blog on this page. Till then, I invite the laptop critics to go out to a zoo and get the shots Ashley is envisioning and creating and I leave you with a shot of an elephant orphan at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. To avoid any confusion, it considers a rescued elephant, which is now being taken care off at the Trust and which will be reinserted into the wild in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya.
Today marks World Rhino Day and I am amongst the first ones to agree that the horror has to stop. The injustice being done to these animals is just sickening (I talked about this in an earlier post). As photographers, amateurs and professionals alike, we can do our bit in trying to stop the horror and the slaughter of these beautiful animals. Over the last few months I have developed quite a strong opinion on this though, being that photographers and conservationists have to STOP SHOWING THE HORROR to actually make it stop. Let me explain this. It is a known fact that in situations of genocide, because of being confronted with extreme violence, people get used to this violence and both perpetrators and victims start accepting it, up to the point where the victims start accepting they actually have to die.
I strongly believe that a similar thing happens in the mind of the general public when being continuously confronted with rhino horror shots. Because of this confrontation people actually start to think about the rhino as an animal, lying dead on the ground, bading in a pool of blood, with the horn cut off and a calf to its side, … I know it happens, we all do, yet keeping on showing the horror will not make a difference, on the contrary! The perpetrators don’t care anyway and the general public gets tired of these shots while slowly, slowly getting used to the species being extinct as early as 2025 (which could be the case if poaching goes on at today’s pace).
So, if we want to make a difference, we have to stop showing the horror and show more of the beauty of this animal and the environment it lives in, this way bringing people on board by showing them what they are fighting for. While doing this, we have to keep on telling the truth and spreading awareness about the plight of the rhino, … by doing so, I believe we can bring more people on board in the fight against poaching and ultimately be of more use to those beautiful animals out there.
In case you are with me on this one, then please spread this message as widely as possible!