Conservation Communication.

Next month I’ll be returning to the Scottish Nature Photography Fair in Perth (do come along!) to talk about Conservation and Communication. Whilst preparing a bit of the show yesterday, I found myself wondering whether the modern-day (self-appointed) ‘Conservation Photographer’ is little more than a pretentious prat with an unfounded sense of self-importance.  As I consider myself a conservation photographer, the thought process was particularly relevant.

There is certainly an element of bandwagonism as photographers frantically seek out the lifeboat on the good ship HMS Your Photographic Career,  which seems to spring more holes on a daily basis. And who can blame anyone for simply wanting to survive?  If consumer demand dictates that nature photographers are conservation-minded, organic, fairtade, homegrown, it’s not surprising that in some cases, a quick-fix ethical veneer is applied –  if it’s OK for Tesco or McDonalds…

Cynicism (or is it reality?) aside, there are photographers who have consistently displayed a commitment to initiating real change. The list is long but in modern times, names that spring to mind include Thomas Peschak, Daniel Beltra, Karl Ammann, Mark Edwards – these are guys who don’t worry too much about labels or branding, they just get on with it. And ‘it’ is putting their imagery to work; getting in front of big audiences and influencing societal change. They are effective visual communicators, and that for me, is where it’s at.

As I prepare to make my bi-monthly submission to one of my picture libraries (see images herein), I realise I’m still trading in a wide range of subject matter that doesn’t support my aspiration to be a conservation photographer when I grow up. Note to self: must try harder.

The blog will go quiet for a couple of weeks as I head off to the Arctic (somebody has to do it). Ironically this is a place where Conservation Communication is as pressing as anywhere.

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5 thoughts on “Conservation Communication.

  1. How can you be a conservation photographer and then regularly jet off to wild places, adding to the carbon footprint etc etc?

    How can you be a conservation photographer and then publicise wild animals and wild places which then attracts others to do the same, etc etc?

    This is not a criticism of you at all. As a full time photographer I am in the same metaphorical boat as you (its leaking faster for me I think). Its just that I sometimes want to call myself a conservation photographer, but then I ask myself these questions and realise I am part of the problem as well.

    Is it not better to simply be an “educator” using photography to educate?

  2. Very valid points David and no criticism taken. It’s a dilemma I constantly wrestle with. We can try and justify what we do and dress it up in all manner of worthy packaging, but in reality, as you say, we all perpetuate the problem.

    Education is a powerful motivator for change and perhaps you’re right, it has a slightly less hypocritical smell about it. As I say, must try harder.

  3. Really great post.

    This is definitely a title that has brought forth a ton scrambling for attention. I must admit that I have been amongst those scrambling since all of my work revolves around conservation and education. However, I have just started going with “natural history photographer,” (despite what my logo says..haha) which still sounds kind of pretentious but thought that it might at least add something different.

    You’re right in saying that the Daniel Beltras of the world just get on with it but for those of us who are working on close-to-home conservation related issues in places as unglamorous as South Carolina where I live, a title may hopefully bring a little more attention to the cause. Then again, it might just mean it is time to print more letterhead. Who knows…


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