The State of the Art?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by alexandre_vaz, Dec 6, 2001.

  1. Have you guys seen already the article by Niall Benvie "The State of
    the Art" in Nature Photographers Online Magazine?

    Although I agree with Mr. Benvie in several points, I couldn’t avoid
    being surprised by the bitter and dark vision of the present moment
    of nature photography.
    I agree that there are often a ugh lack of originality, and that many
    colleges of us tend to forget the important role of their business in
    order to promote a better world.
    On other end, when Mr. Benvie says that nature photography business
    is in really bad shape, at least from the quality point of view, he
    must be comparing the present moment, with others.
    In my opinion, TIME is perhaps the best quality filter in any
    activity. When we look to the past, the only musicians, painters,
    architects, scientists we remember are the good ones. So, it’s easy
    to say that in the old times, they were a lot better then in the
    present, were we have to live with one good for every ten bad.

    Besides that, if there are in fact many photographers after cliché
    images, there are other who continue creating surprising images of
    subjects that have been photographed over and over again.

    I don’t share this catastrophic vision, in my opinion some of the
    better nature photographers that ever existed, are alive and doing

    What about you? Any thoughts?
  2. I have read the article and I found it to be a marvellous piece of polemic. I would not characterize it as "bitter and dark" - there is a lot to be desired in the current fashion of nature photography. I agree whole-heartedly with his criticism of the "celebrity species" approach and the number of fake shots being sold. Well said Niall!
  3. Bravo! These are my feeling exactly. I'm really tired of seing those cougar in Montana shots, captured at the local rent-a-cougar facility, by some well known north american photographer (and they even call themself wildlife photographers!). Keeping animals in captivity to please photographers is unethic. And why shoot captive animals? To survive as a photographer? But why then not shoot wedding for a living? Most of us choose outdoor and wildlife photography because we love the outdoors and animals. Shooting captive animals (and by this I mean animals that are kept captive only to satisfy photographers) is the ultimate in cynical nature photography; the "we're only in it for the money" approach.
    I've never understood the herd mentality of (some) photographers congreating in national parks. Sure, national parks usually scenic but the chance of getting original shots from hot-spots are thin. Besides, theres plenty of oportunities outside national parks. Most nature photographers enjoys nature, not standing in a crowd.
  4. While I do not disagree with any part of this article, (except the discounting of all of todays' nature photographers...I believe that we do have people alive and well today who will transend time.) Mr. Benvie ommits an important point from his musings on the "State of Nature Photography". For many of us, nature photography is about being inspired and being in the presence of the magnificent creatures that we photograph. (I am absolutely not talking about being in the presence of trained, captive animals used at game farms.) I happen to love observing and photographing large mammals...many of the celebrity species that Niall talks about. The implication seems to be that even though those are the subjects that I am inspired by and most enamoured with I should refrain from photographing in those environments because the world is over-run with images of those particular species. Many of us started photographing because we enjoyed being out there among the animals. Many of us have dreamed since we were small children of seeing the Alaskan Brown Bears during the height of the Salmon run at the Brooks River or the McNiel Sanctuary...Mr. Niall seems to be saying that we shouldn't take a camera with us. I couldn't disagree more. Yes, there is a glut of images out there of bears fishing for Salmon at Brooks Falls and the McNiel Sanctuary, I would argue that for many it is the process that is ultimately satisfying. The process itself is theraputic in many respects. The process itself has merit and value. To reiterate, while I appreciate Niall's article and agree with 99% of what he had to say, I believe that what he omitted from his article is extremely important.
  5. I find it interesting that the same issue contains an article about PHOTO OPS AT WILDLIFE REHAB CENTERS. Is this really THAT different from photo ops at preserves set up solely for wildlife photography? Don't get me wrong. Rehab centers are a fantastic concept, but you're still photographing "captive" animals...
  6. In my opinion Niall Benvie’s critic reports mostly to USA. In spite many of my favorite photographers are North American, there are many people doing amazing stuff throughout the world. Just check some of the work from our Finnish colleges. Apparently they don’t need game farms to take great photos (even with wolfs and bears).
  7. r_n


    Benvie's main point is valid, but it strikes me as a bit condescending to say that amateurs photograph popular subjects because they are mimicking professionals. Subjects become popular because of their intrinsic qualities, not merely because they have been often photographed.

    There are many popular locations I have yet to visit, many celebrity species I have yet to encounter. I believe it is just as appropriate for me to experience the creative fulfillment of making images of these subjects as it has been for those who have gone before me. Each moment in nature is unique; as I bring my own creative vision I just may create images of familiar subjects that are novel and engaging (and marketable).

    It is easy to say for someone who has been to most of the popular locations and photographed many of the celebrity animals that these subjects are overworked. It is not so for me, alas. When I do have the opportunity to image these subjects I plan to have my camera ready!
  8. I read the article and couldn't help noting an element of bitterness. Particularly in his characterization of the amateurs who are competing in the pro market not as talented amateurs but as 'monied amateurs'.

    It sounds as though Mr. Benvie does not agree with the old adage that it's the photographer and not the gear. Either that or the 'monied amateurs' are submitting financial statmements along with their images.
  9. After reading the posts here, then reading the article twice, I have to agree: for me, it reads as "sour grapes." The author seems quite worried about competition in the nature photography marketplace. As long as nature photography is a business, and people are paid for the images they produce, there will be competition.

    The point that too many photographs of a particular animal or landscape are in existence is, to my way of thinking, absurd. If I come upon a striking scene or "celebrity" species in a "photographic hotspot," it is highly unlikely I will say to myself "this scene/animal is severely over photographed, I will do no further harm!" Again, this strikes me as something decrying competition. Obviously, if there are a great number of images of brown bears, or bald eagles in a great number of stock files then the demand for new images will decrease.

    On the other hand, a valid point in the article is that a new creativity is needed in the field of nature photography. However, this is stating the obvious. New creativity is vital for growth in any art form. It is through creativity first and technique second the great image is made. I would think that any photographer, pro or amatuer, (myself included), would strive to make frame #2 a better image than frame #1.

    I agree, generally, with the authors views on game farms. I don't like them, and personally have no desire to shoot at one. There are those that choose to do so, and they will gain only what the experience can offer - a chance to photograph a captive animal.
    The ranches/farms exist, but only because a demand for them exists. For me, that's where the controversy ends.
  10. I must disagree with Niall Benvie on his solutions to the perceived lack of creativity in nature photography. I imagine that Mr. Benvie, as a professional photographer, is in a better position than I to comment on whether there are few fresh visions in nature photography these days, but I do not believe that the solutions he offers are constructive. Rather, they appear to come from bitterness with increased competition, and a frustration with nature photography as an institution for not doing more to advance environmental causes.

    Mr. Benvie begins by arguing that most nature photography serves little practical purpose (compared to farming, for example). I suppose we must then include all art in this category of uselessness. Indeed, what purpose does painting serve? Or sculpting? Or writing novels? Why do we take photographs of nature? Most artists do not earn a living from their work, and I daresay they never will. Despite harboring the dream of someday becoming professional photographers (for this “frivolous way to earn a living” is quite appealing to many), I imagine that most of us photograph nature as a way to communicate with others (and ourselves) our emotions and connections with a place that touches us deeply. Is that not purpose enough? Do we now need to attach a greater good to what we and other artists do?

    Mr. Benvie then argues that well-financed part-timers are essentially flooding the market with “blue-chip” shots, making it harder for full-timers like him to sell their images and justify the cost of going to far-off and exotic locations. I actually find this statement to be both bitter and ironic. Bitter because he apparently resents that photography of exotic locations is becoming less limited to an elite cadre of professional photographers, and ironic because he later argues that all photographers (professional and amateur alike) need to go and spend more time in exotic locations such as the tropics and away from overdone locations like the American Southwest. If Mr. Benvie and other full-timers are having a hard time selling their “blue-chip” images because they are becoming overdone, whose fault is that? Isn’t it he that argues that photographers should look beyond Yosemite National Park?

    Mr. Benvie also argues that nature photography suffers from the flood of standard “celebrity” images from U.S. game farms. I agree with him on an emotional level that holding captive animals for the express purpose of taking their picture is wrong, and you won’t likely catch me there. However, that a well-lit image of a mountain lion is no more effective at educating the general public about these animals than a blurry, underexposed shot of one running away is, I think, misguided. I also do not agree that these will encourage the general public to attempt to pet mountain lions. Ask anyone on the street, and I would bet that most people are not even aware that game farms exist, let alone that it’s okay to approach mountain lions closely, and are under the assumption that photographers use very large telephoto lenses to get those shots. If they do try and pet a mountain lion, well, in my business we call that natural selection.

    Mr. Benvie suggests two primary reasons for the “mire of homogeneity that bedevils so much contemporary nature photography.” One is that “celebrity locations and species” get more attention than they deserve, at the expense of equally worthy domestic locations and subjects. Well where I live, Great Smokey Mountains National Park is a domestic subject, and much easier to visit than Latvia. Should I not bring my camera when visiting this park in order to advance the state of the art? Should I instead focus all of my photography on the abandoned parking lots of Durham, NC because they are underrepresented? For me, as I suspect with many, my photography of the natural world sprang from my desire to connect with and communicate what touched me deeply. I have no plans on not “covering” commonly photographed subjects in order to advance the state of the art, at the expense of my own emotional experience. The second explanation Mr. Benvie offers for the lack of fresh vision in nature photography is our tendency to “simply to create a selective inventory of dwindling bio-diversity.” I think it is fine to complain about a perceived lack of creativity in today’s nature photography, but I do not believe the answer is to include the power lines and tree stumps in our images. Arguing that nature photographers should become environmental journalists in order to represent the natural world more accurately is not the solution to a general lack of creativity. Instead, this is partly an answer to Mr. Benvie’s nagging self-doubt about the usefulness of nature photography he began with. These are two different points. Anyone who feels a strong desire to push the debate forward on what happens to wilderness should absolutely dedicate more time to photographically documenting suburban sprawl and environmental degradation. This will, perhaps, provide a “fresh vision of the natural world,” but it will not result in the paradigm shift in the creative state of nature photography for which Mr. Benvie is so desperately searching.

  11. "I imagine that most of us photograph nature as a way to communicate with others (and ourselves) our emotions and connections with a place that touches us deeply."

    But isn't it ironic that so many seem to be most deeply touched by standing in Ansel Adams tripod spots or moved deeply by shooting the same domesticated mountain lion in Montana? I'm sure those who are deeply moved by overshot subject can add their creativity to these subject but I do think a significant percentage are shooting what they see others are shooting.

    "However, that a well-lit image of a mountain lion is no more effective at educating the general public about these animals than a blurry, underexposed shot of one running away is, I think, misguided."

    I believe this argument misses the point. One of the most elusive animals to photograph are wolverines. Nevertheless, I've seen several great images of wolverines shot in the wild by photographers spending weeks in hides. They have achieved this without disturbing the annimals. It probably won't pay off because photographers, not particularly interested in wolverines or other elusive animals for that matter, have their files full of game farm "models" of the same animals. These photographer didn't get these images for the love of the animal in question, but because they wanted them in their files and consequently went to a game farm. The only thing game farm is providing is erosion of the market for genuine nature photography and keeping animals in captivity in order for photographers to get animal portraits in their files.
    This has nothing to do with love or respect for nature but is simply a cynical marketing strategy.
  12. “But isn't it ironic that so many seem to be most deeply touched by standing in
    Ansel Adams tripod spots or moved deeply by shooting the same domesticated
    mountain lion in Montana? I'm sure those who are deeply moved by overshot
    subject can add their creativity to these subject but I do think a significant
    percentage are shooting what they see others are shooting.”

    Perhaps I generalize too much, or have a naïve, idealized image of The Nature Photographer. There is no question that many would like to recreate works by masters such as Ansel Adams, thereby, perhaps, getting closer to greatness themselves, and search out these famous (overshot?) viewpoints. And I agree that there are those out there that are shooting the same old scenes for little reason other than they’re familiar, because they see a particular mountain range and river over and over in magazines. (Though I also think there is nothing wrong with imitating what others have done before as a way of learning, and using that as a springboard for a more creative and personal vision, though this doesn’t always happen.) But Niall Benvie seems to suggest that not just shots of Monument Valley from the parking lot are too common, but that shots of the American Southwest are over represented, and that we should avoid these areas in favor of more overlooked areas. I’m all for photographing areas that have had little exposure (sorry), and do it myself as much as I can, but I think that the general idea that we need to avoid photographing famous places in order to promote creativity is incorrect. I see creativity as something that occurs behind the lens, not in front of it. (Yes, I know that’s an overused cliché, (and not very creative!) but it seemed to fit.)

    Please let me reiterate that I do not believe in using game farms for photographing animals. I think they are wrong from an ethical standpoint, and wrong from the standpoint of “connecting with your subject.” (In short, it’s cheating, if you will.) I continue to admire images of wildlife taken in the wild (like those of Michael Sewell) much more than posing grizzly bears. And photographers who stake out an animal in its habitat for weeks have my utmost admiration. I just disagree with some of the characterizations Mr. Benvie made in his article, notably that people will begin approaching dangerous animals because of these photos (a “slippery slope” if I ever heard one), and that well-detailed shots of animals aren’t as useful as those taken in the wild. Think of all the zoo photography out there. However, I think it’s critical to label captive animals as such (just as it is for digital compositions), because there is a concern of misrepresenting the natural history of an animal using these techniques, as Mr. Benvie points out. I would be happier if there were no game farms, and people had to work for their wildlife shots (after all, there are no alpine lake farms, as far as I know). It would be better for the animals, and better for the photographers.
  13. NPN forwarded my original diatribe (which I sent them as a letter to the editor) to Niall Benvie, who responded. In fairness to him, since others and I interpreted his article as “bitter,” I wanted to post his response to my letter (with his permission):


    I think that I should put you right on one thing, especially since it is a comment which a number of other US commentators have made. I have not the slightest bit of bitterness regarding lots of other people being involved in nature photography for the simple reason that, with the exception of a visit to Yellowstone, I have not been to any of the blue chip locations and my files are pretty much devoid of the blue chip international species. The current decline in international stock sales hasn’t impacted on me in the least as I have my own little niche which certainly isn't mainstream but allows me to make my living. I should, in my defence too (apologies for the spelling!) draw your attention to the section in my book "The Art of Nature Photography" entitled "In praise of the amateur" Chapter 17 in which I set out clearly why I think that amateur photography is a peer of "professional".

    So, I hope I have reassured you that I am not some miserable embittered Scot harbouring lots of grudges. I have a great job, and in a professional sense, am not particularly affected by what other photographers do. But I do care.

    Perhaps if you substituted the work "Presbyterian" for "embittered" you might get closer to understanding my perspective.

    My best



    I responded that this kind of discourse can only be good for nature photography.
  14. Personally I would feel a lot better about this discussion if it included the larger issues of "Where do these captive animals come from?" In case you are unaware, everything from basilisks to snow leopards - and many other endangered species - are owned and bred privately. A thick catalog circulates which advertises the sale of almost anything and got the bucks you can buy a Rhino. Almost all of the animals at photography game farms do NOT come from the wild and, although some are reared for photography uses, others are sold to roadside zoos, as "pets," and for hunters to blast at "private hunting reserves" in the US and abroad. Many suffer greatly in these varied circumstances. I know of a man who has "hunted" rhino, leopard, and wart hog in Florida! These animals did not come from Africa - but from accredited and non-accredited zoos through brokers' sales. Which is better, to live in cage and be well-cared for and handled for photography? Or kept in a box and let out for someone to kill - with a gun, in some cases with a knife or spear or arrow? Or be a "pet"live a life in an apartment in LA?

    I'm not advocating anything but a more in-depth look at the situation. Zoo-watch Canada keeps a tab on the transfer of captive wildlife, I don't know of one in the US.

    Finally, I greatly admire many Finnish photographers but they take many wolverine and bear photos using baits. here in the US that is frowned upon, and even illegal in many places.

    Let's look at the Big Picture.
  15. r_n


    Thanks for posting Mr. Benvie's response. It looks like my remarks regarding his having imaged popular subjects and now discouraging others from same came sideways in his case, and I look forward to reading his book. At any rate, Benvie's article makes the point well to seek new lesser-known subjects, and perhaps play a role in preserving them, and to step out from convention: worthy goals.
    For me that this is a both-and situation: bring a fresh creative approach to subjects both familiar and less well known. There's time enough for both. What matters most is not so much whether a subject is new, but whether a photographer has something new to bring to it.
  16. Can anyone tell me why that story was more than two paragraphs long?

    Edit ruthlessly!

    A couple of valid ideas surrounded by paragraphs of sour grapes, wrapped in drivel.

    I have a feeling that if you do really good work, and know how to sell it, you can still do OK......
  17. I am amazed at the number of folks here who dismiss this article as
    'sour grapes' or the like. I didn't read any embittered feelings at
    all, rather a disappointment at what the author sees as a lack of
    artistic pursuit in his chosen industry, probably even a
    discouragement of such. I thought his example of conversation in
    nature photography was just that: an example of how we may try to go
    outside the standard parameters of what and how we shoot, to reach for
    something other than yet one more bull elk in yellowstone, or a
    grizzly catching a salmon at Katmai, Oxbow Bend shot, or a sandhill
    crane taking off at Bosque, etc etc etc. I don't think he stated that
    there were no great photographs coming out, rather that he felt like
    the "art" was missing, in the majority of what he viewed. He's
    probably right. A recent trip to brooks river at Katmai NP exemplified
    to me what he wrote about. A dozen or so photographers, all with
    pretty similar equipment, stood on the same platforms, using the same
    films, and tripped the shutters at pretty much the same times. I was
    in Cades Cove this past week, and saw 20 photographers all gathered
    around one 6 point buck, and shooting like crazy. Cades Cove is
    littered with deer, yet the only ones most folks there photographed
    were the ones standing close to the road. I walked off the road thru
    some woods, maybe 1/4 mile, and had the place to myself. This is not a
    criticism of those people, per se, rather a good example of what Nial
    wrote about. I think we're too used to locales such as Cades Cove,
    Bosque, Katmai, Yellowstone, Venice Rookery, etc etc etc, where the
    wildlife is so plentiful and so habituated to humans, that nobody
    wants to do he hard work for interesting and artful photography
    anymore. I just raed recentl on another forum of a guy who sat in a
    blind for a full day, waiting for a deer to show up, and finally, just
    at dusk, a buck walked by, and he got the shot. I thought, THAT is
    what my idea of wildlife photography is about. Driving around a
    one-way loop surrounded by scads of tourists and photographers is not
    at all what I want my photography to represent. When somebody sees a
    photograph of an animal, I think it implies a certain sense of
    wilderness, of freedom and spirit that does not come from the window
    of a vehicle or the flashing of a credit card. I read this article as
    an encouragement of individuality, a promotion of creativity, and hard
    work. Not so much a condemnation as a challenge, to say ok, now let's
    try to take it one step further, go to another level, and continue
    reaching. How we do that is up to us.


    Carl Donohue

  18. Carl,
    I think you make the point quite eloquently. If the original article had been written in as straightforward a manner, perhaps we (me) would have been less likely to grab torches and start marching toward the castle, and more likely to sit back and look at what we’re shooting and why.
  19. "If the original article had been written in as straightforward a manner, perhaps we (me) would have been less likely to grab torches and start marching toward the castle, and more likely to sit back and look at what we’re shooting and why."
    Perhaps, but it may have not elicited such spirited discourse (both here and on the site) if that was the case. And in the final analysis, isn't that what a good piece of editorial should do?
  20. As the one who originally posted this thread, I would like to ad that in spite being some how surprised by the pessimistic vision of the present moment of nature photography business from Mr. Benvie, I share many of his worries. In fact, more then one year ago, I’ve posted here, other thread " Shouldn’t we expect more from nature photography?" discussing exactly the lack of originality in the work of many of our colleges. I also would like to note the total absence of people defending game farms on this thread. Is it possible that they feel some how guilty by going there in other to shoot some "wild life" and they don’t feel comfortable to stand and defend there option?
  21. Does anybody else see any irony in the author of a recent book that
    explains how to digitally insert and remove items into "nature photos"
    simultaneously complaining [in the linked article] about "a big trend
    towards 'fantasy photography' which involves staging pictures"?

    "The story such pictures tell is fictitious," Biall writes in the
    article under discussion here, referring to game farm photos rather
    than to his own digital manipulations.

    Since the publication of his book (subtitled, "Perfect Your Pictures
    In-Camera and In-Computer"), Benvie has apparently backed off quite a
    bit from his boosterism of digital manipulation. He now says on his
    website, "I have to admit that the more highly I manipulate the image,
    the more uncomfortable I feel, especially if the resulting image has
    little to do with a field experience.... I use Photoshop now _almost_
    exclusively for design and layout rather than manipulation." [emphasis
    added on "almost"]

    Still... (perhaps that "almost" is what troubles me). Does anyone else
    find Biall's advocacy of digital content manipulation (not just tonal
    adjustment) problematic, especially with respect to his
    purist-sounding arguments about nature photography in general?
  22. Oops! In my post immediately above, I called the author "Biall" twice,
    an apparent combination of "Benvie, Niall." Some of us aren't used to
    dealing with different first letters of name pairs.... My apologies
    to Mr. Benvie.
  23. I've already written about this once, but I sat down tonight and wrote
    a little more coherently and directly about my feelings on this essay.

    Nial Benvie pushes an important concept to those of us who wish to
    hear it: creativity is central to art, and to strive ever forward in
    it's pursuit is a constant and challenging struggle. His is a
    reminder, a wake-up call, for those so inclined to work harder, to
    look further afield, and dig somewhat deeper to create and explore.
    The parameters we work within are restrictive, and the challenge is
    indeed a difficult one, but the rewards are also boundless. His
    commentary is a vital mandate to all artists not to follow the
    dictates of public will. The economic laws of supply and demand are
    adverse to the artists' creed. Whether it be game farm subjects, the
    'guaranteed blue chip opportunities' of photographic "hot spots",
    digital manipulation or a function of photographic technique, it's all
    together too easy to simply attempt to perfect our replications rather
    than seriously endeavour to portray our artistic vision in a new and
    individual manner.

    Any criticism of the use of game farm subjects raises much ire from
    many wonderful photographers, who typically defend this activity with
    largely subjective and peripheral arguements. It never ceases to amaze
    how vigorously, and oftentimes irrationally, people will defend an
    activity that makes them money. The health and well-being of an animal
    in captivity could not possibly be further from the point, nor
    misinformed. The word 'captivity' sums up the situation perfectly. No
    matter how well fed these creatures may or may not be, irregardless of
    the care and attention they receive from their owners, they are
    captive. Calling these animals "models" and defending their use as
    equivalent to human subjects is to forget that the general public are
    completely aware that the characters we see in commercials are models
    and actors. Most people, however, are not even aware that game farms
    exist, let alone know that such numbers of so called 'nature'
    photographs involve them. I believe that images of most game farm
    subjects, wolves, mountain lions, wolverines, grizzlies, etc, are
    perceived by the general public to be of wild animals, and that is the
    single reason why I have a problem with it. It is my hearfelt opinion
    that not only should images be captioned as such, they should have
    large bold faced print across the face of the creature (when was the
    last time you saw such an image without a perfect view of the animal's
    face?) stating the animal is a pet and its name. To do otherwise not
    only brings a respectable industry disrepute, it devalues every
    photograph of a wild animal.

    However, the environmental concerns noted are far more pressing, not
    only to photographers, but to all people. Nial's commentary on the
    situation in Latvia and what he is doing towards a remedy there is one
    example of how we as artists can work towards achieving some semblance
    of balance. This is merely one way in which we can look forward rather
    than behind us, to step outside what we see as our boundaries, and
    create new imagary, elevating our artistic approach. What Ansel Adams,
    William Henry Jackson, et al achieved came about through their passion
    for nature, and it's beauty. That we still have so much of it around
    us today is largely the fruits of their, and others of a like mind,
    labors. It's a beautiful and generous thing that they contributed to
    the world, and surely something to cherish. Yet in the theme of this
    article, it is not so much a mandate as a challenge, an example of how
    unlimited the rewards of artistic expression can be, and a call to
    interested folks to strive for that. I imagine that if we care to look
    deeply enough, there are countless other approaches we can find to
    avoid the ruts of those we typically follow.

    To focus on any one facet of his writing is to lose focus of his
    theme. Discussing point for point each subject on which he touches is
    blindly failing to see the forest for the trees. Nobody is going to
    agree verbatim with each and every idea he expresses, nor would too
    many people argue the contrary. I, for example, question his
    denigration of 'celebrity species and locations'. I feel it is far too
    simplistic to reason that these places and animals are sought merely
    because of their accessability or the work of previous photographers.
    People of all cultures have forever held some locales and animals in
    the highest regard, extolling their beauty, power and wonder for
    various reasons. Uluru in the Australian outback, the Grand Canyon,
    Yosemite, Denali, the Tetons and Yellowstone, etc, were all considered
    'sacred lands' by native people long before photographers ever
    submitted to the demands of the image-buying public. These were indeed
    the original version of our modern national parks, and hopefully will
    continue to be afforded the respect their beauty warrants. The grizzly
    bear was referred to by many tribes as 'the great bear' in
    southeastern Alaska. Coming face to face with such an animal, you
    quickly understand why. They're no more a 'celebrity species' now
    than they were a thousand years ago. However, as artists we have a
    responsibility to seek out our own passions, our own intimacies, and
    follow the muses within, rather than the dictates of a culture bred
    out of Hollywood, with it's Disneyland stories and pictures.

    The essay speaks simply about the purity of artistic expression, and
    is a challenge to those who would to break out of their bounds and
    work towards a higher goal. Creating a beautiful image is, in his
    ideal, not what it is all about. Something far higher and ultimately
    more important is at issue here. It's clearly not a mesage for each
    and every person who reads it, nor should it be expected to convey the
    same message to all. I think his entire writing is best summed up in
    the sentence "Yet much professional nature photography - and I include
    most of my own "work" in this - fails to serve much purpose beyond
    supporting the family when it could, with a new direction, give people
    something more substantial to chew on as well." The legacy of any
    artist is all that we can truly leave behind. Rarely do those who
    pursue the guarantees of the world, the 'tried and true blue chip
    opportunities' leave much behind.


    Carl Donohue
  24. I thought the article was a push to make us think about and look for the subjects we are missing. Maybe also a useful hint that the repetitive style is beginning to show in competitions, or at least in one big one.

    The photo buyers are leading the market choice, and what the commercially minded photographer will need to photograph, that doesn't mean it's the only photo out there.
  25. I believe that one of the main points Mr. Benvie was making has been missed in this discussion. I do not think it was Mr. Benvie's intent to tell everyone that they should not go to photographic hotspots and try to duplicate the types of images they has seen. In a large number of cases, nature photographers justify their interest in photographing nature and wildlife with claims that those images are used to aid in the conservation of those species and places. Niall's point, as I understood it, was to ask if continually photographing the same subjects (be they animals or locations) in the same ways as so many others really serves the purpose of conservation. After all, images are already available for that subject. This does not mean that you should not take a picture of a subject that interests you. If you have spent your entire life wanting to go to Alaska and photograph bears catching salmon, go right ahead. Just do not go with the idea that your particular image is going to swing public opinion on conservation in a new direction. The images have been taken thousands of times and will likely not be remarkably different to what is already available. Again, I believe the message was to shoot what ever images you want, but if your interest is to use those images as a tool for conservation, shoot something different.

    I would also like to address Mr. Vaz's comment regarding game farms. I believe game farms are an important resource for photographers, provided they are properly run, meaning that the animals are well cared for. I believe that the images of large predators that have come out of game farms have done more to improve public opinion about these animals then anything else. Without the tremendous number of popular images produced in game farms, do you belive that the wolf would have been reintroduced into Yellowstone? Do you think the wolf would still exist in the US? I do not. Ok, it can be argued that pictures of wolfs are possible in the wild, after all, Jim Brandenburg has captured many incredible images. But what about some of the other predators. How many images of wild snow leopards are out there? Are there enough to help save this highly endangered cat? A National Geographics research team spent four years studying these cats in the wilds of Nepal and only saw them four or five times (all but one time being when they trapped them). Shooting images of animals in a game farm is not the same thing as shooting them in the wild. However, images of animals at game farms have contributed tremendously to conservation and will continue to do so in the future. As to why people haven't spooken up for game farms on this thread, I can only speak for myself. I view the subject to be much like religion and politics, we can talk about it, but we will probably not change each other's mind.

    Chris Gamel

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