Hell has many levels…

I made a post on my Facebook page showing an image via a photographic website of two elephants (a mother and baby), in distressed with a large number of humans being in the background. The baby was on fire.

Now I have purposefully kept emotional writing out of that first sentence for a reason. I want to explore not just the image itself, but also the message conveyed that actually added to my sadness by throwing in a tinge of anger.  I will attempt to explore this in this blog now, so bear with me as I let my thoughts fall out onto the page.

Why did this image catch my eye?

©Biplab Hazra – Hell is here

The image caught my eye for two reasons. The most obvious is the pain and anguish, cruelty and violence depicted in the image. The aggression to an animal that we know as a species, is endangered and very much in need of our support. To see such an appalling treatment of an animal like this on any level is wrong. But, I’ll come back to the issue of treatment later in this post.

The second reason this image caught my eye was due to the choice of words used at the start of the article on Petapixel.  “A striking photo…”. It’s true that it is a striking photo, however, I feel that the word doesn’t sit right with me. Even on a website that is looking at the merits of a photograph, both technically and emotionally. Please don’t get me wrong here. I think Petapixel is a great website for photographers, consistently good, great articles etc. We are all allowed to make mistakes and I firmly believe the choice of words to start this article were wrong. Needless to say I’m still reeling from the image to come up with a better suggestion, and in preference for this blog I would rather focus on the image and why it bothers me on so many levels.

The content of the image.

Let’s look at that first. It clearly shows Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC). But when we are looking at the image we side with the animal. I think the important point here is that there are two very obvious sides to the story, one of which can be debated and should be debated. In the image we see the two animals in very clear distress, panic, running for their lives. We see an angry mob, the instigators (we assume) of the situation. I say assume, as in the image there is no evidence of them actually perpetrating the action recorded, however, the accompanying testimonials of the photographer and the reporting give us the guide to arrive at that conclusion.

I would also suggest that if someone from the local community looked at the image they may take the opposite view, that the elephants have been the culprits and are being seen off with extremely rough justice. In West Bengal, and many other locations, the type of HWC reported usual includes tragic deaths of local people who have been killed by Elephants. The local communities have reason to hate and or fear these large animals.

But why do they seem to use such barbaric methods to resolve the conflict in their favour? Perhaps a culturally driven action, but also the lack of innovative ideas and support to resolve the conflict in a beneficial way for both parties.  It has to be said that much of the HWC that we see is primarily due to the increase of population, removing animal habit in preference for farming to support the increase. Some instances of HWC are based on greed, let us not forget that the rainforests have been leveled to produced Palm Oil, an oil that isn’t really needed but driven by our own desire for products. How many of you have eaten a product that has Palm Oil in. I suspect you would be unsurprised to know that you and I are part of that problem causing the demand.

What should be done in a situation such as the one we see in this image?

Typically, the action after the reaction is to have a charity or NGO try to create a solution that brokers an unsteady peace, that if it holds for long enough will eventually become entrenched in the local communities. In Namibia for example, the charity I have supported uses a local group of wardens to broker peace, educate, and assist with the use of Kraals to protect live stock from Lions. Lions that are dwindling in number. It should be the government in the country that delivers a solution. I fear though that the solution in most cases would probably be weighted to humans and not the wildlife.

The barbarism we subjectively see in this image is no different to our instinctive reaction when we see a wasp or bee. For some the belief is that we are going to be hurt, and therefore kill the insect. Is this an unfair comparison?  How many of you have a fear of spiders that live in the UK? How many of you have killed the spider without thinking about it? That is an even worse situation than HWC in the image, as there is absolutely no reason to do this, especially in a country where the spiders cannot harm us!

As I’ve already said the image bothers me on many levels. I actually want to try to find a solution to help both sides co-exist. Quite simply because we have too. I want to take the side of the elephant because it is the human problem that has caused this situation, but the practical side of me says that this is not going to change very quickly. We cannot wind the clock back knowing what we know now, and suggest or control the increase of population of humans. It’s been tried!

Why does this image bother me….more?

The other reason I wanted to write this blog is because the route the image took for me to see it. Again there are two sides to this argument, so bear with me again. It is a competition winning image . It won a competition! It wasn’t that it was reported through a conservation channel (in the strictest sense of that term). It was a winning image on a website for a magazine called Sanctuary Asia. I’m not going to pick on this particular journal, but step back and look at the larger issue. Photography has always in the past been the recording of events. Historic, tragic, bold, happy, unlawful events to name a few.  I have always believed that the photographer can be the keeper of time. Freezing that moment to be viewed, recalled, discussed, felt, learned from and actioned.  Why is it that I’m affected so much by this image? Not only because of the content but because this image should have made the news, not made the judges pile!

The other side of the argument really is that because there is no easy route for the image to get to a wide audience; a competition is the “Chance” a photographer makes to have their image raised in profile. Indeed, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you would be shocked by the image unless the photographer, Biplab Hazra, has submitted the image and won. In the UK, our very own Wildlife Photographer of the Year, has a category for documentary images. Every year the winner of that section either documents or exposes yet another human impact of nature. Every year. Can you remember the last winner?

The title of the image is “Hell is here” and for me, this image exposes multiple levels of hell!

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Noah!

I’m a big fan of films, which I guess is due to the fact that filming is part of my life. Last night I found myself watching the acclaimed Noah starring Russel Crowe amongst others. Now I have to make some declarations right up front. I’m an evolutionist. I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in energies that mean we are all connected. That when something dies, the energy has to go somewhere as its physics!!

So I was watching Noah with my usual suspension of believable situations that would cause something like this to actual happen.  But it did strike me that there was an important message in the original text that resulted in this film. The story of Noah, helping god cleanse the world of man’s destruction allowing the world to start again anew. Allowing the animals on the planet, who were designated as innocent, to have the upper hand for a while until man was rebooted!

It strikes me that even in the bible, which was written so many years ago, that a message of conservation was there. Whether it was the by product of a god’s dissatisfaction with man or that it was always the intention will never be known.

For me, anything that has a message that says the animals should have a voice, be supported and cared for, be allowed to survive above all else is good by me. We always have to remember that we are simply, whether by choice or design, the custodians of this planet. Personally, maybe one day we will know the answer as to who really is in control. I think it won’t be a surprise to find out that the planet is in control, and that it may take matters into its own metaphorical hands and choose it’s own version of Noah. 

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#marillion this strange engine?

via Instagram http://ift.tt/2tv4eGQ
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When Twin Peaks met conservation!

I came across an article recently reviewing the work of a photographer I had never heard of before which stopped me in my tracks. I sat looking at his images and found them both arresting, beautiful, sad, and dreamlike in quality. Because of this, I want to share my thoughts with you and give you the chance to view this amazing work.

Before we get to the images, and his website, I wanted to first explain my thoughts. The reason for this is quite selfish, as when you then look at his images you will have my words, trampling around the periphery of your mind, possibly influencing your own views. But, to be fair I will state that you can skip my words and go to the title below, then if you’d like to come back and read the rest do so.

My thoughts on the images of Philip Kanwischer.

I’ve been drawn to the stark ethereal qualities of programs in the past such as Twin Peaks, and Fargo. The David Fincher quality of film produces a higher level of engagement for me, as the images beg for you to fill in the blanks. For me its a similar experience to reading a book. The enjoyment you get from a well written book is the narrative and story telling. Allowing the reader to craft their own perception of what is happening and drive the understanding of the story or topic. The skill is the storyteller’s ability to gently nudge you to their way of thinking, or conclusion. Think of it as crafting skilfully left small but important breadcrumb trail of clues. Just enough to give the brain the ability to arrive at the desired conclusion. Kanwischer’s images tick that box for me. Simple in design (which couldn’t be further from the truth in relation to the process he uses to create the images), he offers a simple statement. Man’s impact on animals.

Each of his images allow the viewer to think about the underlying proposition. The careless or reckless impact of man on animals. It’s important to say that the animals in the images are for the purpose of the images themselves, tokens. Symbolic of nature. Kanwischer constructs his images from a stock library of images, compositing them skilfully together to create the desired propositional statement.

All images © Philip Kanwischer

Taking a stand All images © Philip Kanwischer

 

© Philip Kanwischer

On the other side © Philip Kanwischer

I think one of the other triggers for me is that the locations used, stark landscapes and props that wouldn’t be unfamiliar if you were reading Ghosts of the wilderness” by Tony Worobiec.

There is a great write up of Philip’s work that you can read here at Feature Shoot.

But please visit Philip’s website and look at his stunning images: Philip Kanwischer.

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A Zoo worth supporting – Opinion

Recently the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland which is part of the ZSL of Scotland anounced that they were going to bring two Amur Leopards to their park. Something that I whole heartedly support as we will never get to see them!

How does this work? An attraction that is not an attraction. Primarily, the reason for this strange behaviour is to reduce the strange behaviour of wild animals.

Why? Thinking about the numbers of Amur leopards in the wild, we know that there are less than a hundred. These amazingly rare, and reclusive animals are very difficult to find. If you watch some of the wildlife documentaries that feature a “How we did it!” Section at the end, one show spent months trying to capture footage.

For this specie it is all about the number now, breeding, increasing the pool of viable animals in the wild in the hope that they don’t become another statistic.

Getting back to the Zoo, they have taken a brave and logical decision to have a pair of Amur Leopards, and build an enclosure that doesn’t expose them to the public at all. It, essentially, is their own private land they can live on and hopefully breed on. If they are succsessful then the cubs won’t be exposed to humans and be put back into the wild.

There are never any guarantees with this type of project, but right now, anything that can be done to increase the numbers is welcome.

This is why we should all be supporting this Zoo. This action doesn’t financially benefit them in anyway, it is a conservation action, and as such, needs the support of the public. Money…

Building and running this project requires a lot of it. No doubt they will get funding from various direction, but when a Zoo takes a purely conservation orientated decision such as this, they deserve more!

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April’s Baby – Lets put an (Emoji) smile on that face!

April’s baby Giraffe has been born. However on the live feed there were a lot of angry emojis being used. Now, whether this is true or not I don’t know but the news piece elaborates further. The Park where the baby was born is pointing the finger at animal rights groups trying to get the feed (and succeeding for a short time) taken down.

This is another case of anthropomorphic interpretation. Humans placing their “human” feelings, and thoughts onto animals. In the wild when an animal is born, does it hide away from prying eyes. Yes, but for safety, not for vanity, or embarrassment. I can hear some of you shouting, “How do you know?”, well, simply. None of us do know. Scientists continue to work on understanding the level of intelligence that animals have. Even recently, further progress was made in understanding the Elephant intelligence through puzzles for them to solve. However, I can again hear the voice of the extreme “liberationists” shouting that we shouldn’t be doing that. The animals should be free! Well, to give more weight, credibility and importantly, solid scientific argument to the fact that animals are intelligent, do deserve respect, and to be left alone. These tests should continue.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39608851

I know a lot of people who are animal rights folks who would find this as being “all being tarred with the same brush”. I think the word “extreme” should have been placed in the news piece.

No sane animal rights person would do the above. While it is an animal that is caged, giving birth to an endangered species raises the profile of Giraffes to a talking point and as such allows more awareness. I cannot vouch for the quality of the park that April is in, and whether their intentions are to save Giraffes in the wild. But, for me, the pint glass must be half full, and the message should be about awareness.

If you want to know more about Giraffe Conservation, there is one place to go: https://giraffeconservation.org

Yes, I agree that animals should not be in cages, however, we need to be pragmatic and create awareness through productive channels instead of creating a complex off-topic discussion about the “liberators”.

The focus should always be the animals.

Simply, the Giraffe, like so many of the staple animals that you hope to find on safari are under immense pressure. Not just poaching, but habitat loss. They are endangered. While the numbers are a lot higher than many other animals, they are still in decline, and are now joining that queue moving slowly towards the edge of extinction….

 

 

Wild Giraffe with baby

Wild Giraffe with baby

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Further unrest in Kenya

As the drought continues in Kenya, the actions of herdsman impact the lives of humans and animals alike. The depressing fact is that Kenya, and especially Laikipia suffers more violence and death through, some say, politically motivated violence.

Figure-1-Location-of-Laikipia-County-in-red-Kenya-Map-from-Butynski-De-Jong.jpg

Location of Laikipia County (in red), Kenya. Map from Butynski & De Jong (2014)

We need to remember that the troubles actually started before the drought really took hold and as this blog outlines,  not only are there devastating consequences to the environment, but people are losing their lives.

The impact of this means that the environment for tourism is also being threatened, and the Kenyan Government needs to take action. But for some reason there is a level of ambivalence.

Please take the time to share the linked blog as much as you can, people are using their lives, livelihood and nature.

If you have ever read the book “I Dreamed of Africa” you will know of the author Kuki Gallmann. This was turned into a film staring Kim Basinger. Sadly, this week she lost her daughter who was brutally murdered while escaping from one of there properties.  (Mail Report)

Blog: https://kifukuinvasion.wordpress.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laikipinvasion

 

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A dilemma of a picture…

I am troubled and it isn’t going away…

I want to take you back to the awful killing of a rhino in a french zoo. All for a horn that has a mythical value to unscrupulous people. Then after that, an image of the horns of a rhino being removed in a Czech zoo, to save it fro the same possible end.

Now think about going on Safari, taking pictures of Rhinos, or elephants for that matter. Stunning animals with tusks, or horns. 

Here’s my worry, and whether it is a genuine worry or not, its still a worry. 

Your camera, probably your iphone as much as any other recent camera, will record data along with the image. IPTC data. Part of this “geeky” stuff may include GPS information. GPS information that gives the location of where the picture was taken.

For example, using Photos tool on my ipad, i can see where my pictures were taken, as the data in the image records the latitude, and longitude of the image. 

Easily view your image data

Imagine now posting that picture on a website, or system, that reads that data and allows for it to be either dsisplayed or found.

You can now see where I am going with this can’t you? 

I hope I’m over-reacting, but have we got to a point in conservation that we need to think about stripping the unseen data out of our photographs so that the location of where it was taken is removed?

As poaching is now reaching extremes, as the available animals declines further, it will continue to drive these individuals to take more and more usual and appealing steps. Because the price of the horn will continue to go up and up, making risks easier to take….

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We are the image makers…but how?

It isn’t the first time that I have ended up thinking about this! In the past I have had the distinct pleasure of supporting or mentoring students in Photography or film. Time and again I find myself asking some questions.

Here’s the “thing”. I fell into my job through a series of fateful decisions, and incidents. I count myself being very lucky from that point of view. However, in doing so, I never received formal training and have learnt through making many varied mistakes. Some costly! But, taking the positive from this, it has allowed me to become a little more aware, and for my wife, and real pain in the rear.

I’m forever battling on about copyright and how people get taken advantage of when they need to get experience. I should say at this stage that I’m not going to provide answers, however, I am hopefully going to make others want to ask and find out why its like this.

Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of having a student of film working with me on a Monty Roberts event. As with all students, they have the enviable drive, thirst for knowledge, keen understanding of technology, and desire to experience more. I see this in photography students too. A great creative example for the university.

But my question is why do all these courses, not prepare them for the Venus fly trap effect of the real world? Degree courses seem to be polarised in the image making world. The photography courses now focus on preparing to run a business, and don’t cater for the basics, or core fundamentals of photography. I had a conversation with one student who said they weren’t taught composition techniques! 

Wheras, and I know this is only one point of data (which can never make a trend), film students aren’t taught about the business end, just the technical side. Sure they get experience out in the world through some attached projects etc, but really?

This is a where I’m going to shout now…get ready..

Businesses will take advantage of fresh faced students, or those who want to break into the industry for as long as they can.

I’ve said it before and many have said it before me. A credit or byline DOES NOT PUT FOOD ON A TABLE. Initially, there is a drive to get experience, and why should that experience come at the price it does? Because everyone is trying to make money? Because budgets haven’t been thought through? Because resources haven’t been planned? All of those, but also because new blood in the industry is easy prey. 

The insect, when flying around will smell the odour of its favourite food. It flies down to this very handy looking table, that looks great. But where’s the food? By which time, the trap has been sprung and the two sides of the flytrap have shut far enough to stop escape!

The university courses need to have a module that creates full awareness of the predatorial world out there. This is crazily important. These students could be the next Spielberg, Lean, or Fincher. They could be the next Ansel Adams, or Bang Bang Club. 

Universities, please understand that this will not deter the ones who have the drive to make a difference. It will allow them to walk out the door knowing they will get screwed over to start with.

For a medium that changes peoples lives, perceptions, or even cultures. Removes bigotry, highlights injustices, or generally makes people feel good. The people within, either get treated like rubbish, or are the perpetrators.

Posted by admin in Making Images, 1 comment

The Kenyan troubles, wildlife, and Human Human Conflict!

Recently, I was reminded that it isn’t just the poaching and destruction of animals that occur in Africa. It is also the less talked about Human Human Conflict. I’m always very quick to talked about the Human Wildlife Conflict, especially when countries suffer from Droughts for prolonged periods. But, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the results of the size of the lack of rain can create additional human impacts on humans! However, in Kenya’s situation, the droughts are being used as a cover for a more vicious series of attacks that are politically motivated, or perhaps accelerated. 

I want to focus on the issues that are happening right now in Kenya. A land where many travellers go to seek the rich wildlife that it is know for. Sadly, because of the ambivalence towards the situation by the government there, and the rumour political stirring of local populace.  People are losing their lives for no other reason than they are in the way. 

Recently, Tristan Voorspuy, was killed on the 5th March. It was suggested at the time, that Pastoral Herders were responsible for the act while Mr. Voorspuy had been inspecting his safari lodges. The result of this act and others that haven’t received as much press has left many wondering what the future is for the country. 

This is a country that has a high level of academia. Many students leave college with good qualification only to find themselves in a situation of having no work. Reports indicate that more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Why should this be the case, when you have a country that is not only a premier location for tourists, but also rich in resources? 

On many occasions I have heard comments about institutionalised corruption in governments of countries such as Kenya. Needless to say, collating evidence remains to be a challenge. However, on the occasion of the death of Mr. Voorspuy, a man has now been charged with his murder. It seems this is as a result of political incitement by the local politician Mathew Lempurkel, who is the MP for Laikipia North where Mr. Voorspuy lived.

If you look for reports about the situation they are all pointing to crime driven murders which are going unreported too many. In fact, if My Voorspuy hadn’t lost his life, would many in the UK know much more than what gets, in a very shallow fashion in the UK?

Yes, Kenya is in drought and has been since 2014. The lands are straining to support the animal wealth that Kenya is known for. Tribes of herdsmen, Pokot for example, are taking their herds onto private land, ousting, imprisoning , or murdering people who live and own these properties. These areas which right now would be safari havens, exhibit premeditated destruction of wildlife as well. Reports state that some areas are littered with the decaying carcasses of wildlife. The herdsmen not only are invading properties, but protecting their positions using AK-47 rifles! Protect from who? It appears that they wish to deter police, and anyone else they perceive as a threat.

This issue won’t go away, and as such will impact the value of tourism to Kenya. It will also severely impact the wildlife there. The more they are allowed to destroy the ecosystem they live in, the longer it will take for the land and animal population to recover. It is even possible that we may see the permanent removal of some species from the Kenyan landscape. 

The government of Kenya needs to act fast, and resolve the situation for their own sakes and for those who may be in harms way. With declining international tourism (just look at their published figures), they can ill afford additional situations that warrant other countries restricting travel to Kenya. With a population that is clearly suffering through poor political management, and local corruption. Issues will continue to flare up and become a perfect storm.
UPDATE: recent further evidence of criminal activities are detailed in this press release: 

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