One of the traits that makes us human is the ability to plan – to look into the future and envisage the consequences of our actions. We’re obsessed with planning. Businesses plan cash flow and marketing strategy; charities plan fundraising and volunteer recruitment; even nature reserves have management plans dictating which species should live and those that shouldn’t. And as individuals, in an effort to make the best use of our time and resources, many of us plan to the nth degree. As a society we don’t like to leave anything to chance. We strive to ensure wherever possible, positive and sustainable outcomes. It all makes sense but with all this detailed planning going on, you’d think that we’d have a pretty comprehensive plan in place for our future as a species. Not so. This is the elephant in the room, the plan that no one wants to make.
I sometimes find it difficult to pitch this blog. On the one hand, I’m concerned (as we all should be) about environmental injustices and to that end, open dialogue is a food that nourishes fresh perspectives and values. On the other hand, I’m a photographer and my guess is that most people visiting this blog want to see pictures or at the very least, read material that is directly relevant to nature photography. I’ve heard many negative comments about photographers getting all too worthy and I definitely don’t want to fall into that trap – please prod me if that is becoming the case!!
So is it my place to slap the humble readership of this blog around the face and make it feel so guilty about its environmental performance that it feels compelled to go and live in a cave? Of course not. It’s my place to try my best to inspire and send folk away with a nice warm fuzzy feeling – isn’t it? The fact is I’m not sure, and my indecision was crystallised just yesterday.
Chris Packham is writing the foreword to the upcoming 2020VISION book and I’ve just received his draft text. Now I’m a great fan of Chris’ straight-talking pragmatism and I agree with most of what he says. But in this case, I was a tad surprised about his views on the lack of merit in modern conservation, not to mention wildlife photography. I see his point but having read the piece I felt a bit worthless and deflated. In this state of mind am I best placed to go out and do my bit to inspire others? Probably not.
And then this morning, colleague Niall Benvie sent me a raft of material from the very clever people at Futerra, a London-based company committed to creative environmental communication (check them out). Their first document, ’10 rules for communicating sustainability’ centred throughout on positivity, encouragement…even love. Rule 6 says “avoid too much guilt.”
It’s very easy to report bad news and over the years, photographers with a mind to effective communication, have been as guilty as anyone for doing just that. But does it work? Well, for what it’s worth, I think it does…for a while. But in the longer term we become fatigued with guilt and not wanting to carry around such a burden, we simply shed it, block it out.
I’ve got to say I kind of enjoy discussing the sensitive issues that govern our way forward as a species but increasingly, I recognise that I’m perhaps more productive going back to basics and producing (and showing) imagery that make people feel good. This based on the perhaps naive assumption that if we feel good, we’re more likely to do good. At a time when the role of visual communication has never had such an exciting songpost to sing from, it’s critical that as photographers, we pitch our message sensitively and creatively.
And whilst we’re talking about warm, fuzzy feelings, make sure you check out 2020VISION’s daily WOW Factor image here. There’s no message, no agenda, it’s just nice!