When the rains are plentiful, the pools are full and the animals can drink freely, spared of energy-sapping petty spats. But when the rains fail to materialise, the pools diminish and more and more demand is placed on a dwindling supply. You can stay and fight over scraps hoping the rains will return, or you can leave and look for your own pool. Survival depends on that choice.
In the early nineties a drought descended on the nature photography community in the form of the digital revolution, and the subsequent accessibility to many more practitioners. Sure the pool was full, but there were suddenly many more trying to quench their thirst. I was nowhere near the front row so decided to go in search of my own pool. To survive. Most were occupied but eventually I found an oasis and was able to drink. Narrative-based conservation photography was an emerging field at the time and the water tasted sweet. Although others had arrived before me, the opportunities seemed plentiful, tempered only by the unproven case for financial viability. Although I’ve been tempted back to the main pool from time to time, I’m thankful that my little oasis has sustained me albeit on meagre rations.
But my pool and many others like it, has now been discovered and ‘conservation photography’ is becoming quite the thing. Despite the obvious pressures this brings, I for one welcome more photographers thinking about what they shoot, but more importantly what they do with what they shoot. What is unwelcome however, is the green halo competition that seems to be emerging as the increasing crowds gather around the pool.
Outdoor Photography magazine recently ran a feature entitled’ the 40 most influential nature photographers.’ I was humbled to be included, along with several close colleagues and a number of veritable giants of the business. Making such a selection inevitably raises hackles, and whether the magazine’s choice of photographers was appropriate or not, is of course a matter of personal interpretation. But I would suggest that the 40 individuals highlighted – irrespective of their ‘right’ to be there – have one thing in common: they all went in search of their own pool and mostly found it; not so they could strut around wielding their green halo, but so they could survive. Surely anyone who does that, deserves at least some credit?
Of course if we all brought a shovel along, we could make the pool bigger.
Download feature here: 61_71 most influential nature photo2_SW
2 thoughts on “Down at the water hole.”
A thought provoking piece indeed. While IMHO you have every right to be in a list of influencial nature photographers considering your visionary concepts of Wild Wonders of Europe & 2020Vision in particular. One can always argue that when the editorail team at OP start forming league tables and omit influencial photographers the likes of John Shaw, Laurie Campbell and the late Eliot Porter, Galen Rowell and a host of other I can and I’m sure you can think of.
I think we all have to find our niche and exploit the creative, field expereince, dare I say spiritual nature and business potenial in which ever pool we fish in…… though every pool has a threshold where by it can easy be overstocked and overfished…… Hence why anglers frequently fish private waters where the pool is regulary stocked and the number of anglers is limited.
I’m sure which ever pool you fish in Peter you’ll catch many small fish and land a couple of prize speciemens.
Seasonal greetings and Happy pool fishing.