The Great Wildlife Photography Sham

Jewel...posed like Kate Moss against magnificent snow-clad peaks. That's how magazine writer Ted Williams described a recent photo shoot for one of his articles. Just one thing to note: Jewel was a rented three-year-old cougar.

Williams has an illuminating post on Utne Reader about phoney nature photography - basically how dangerous animals like cougars and snow leopards and lions and the rest are rented from game farms and trotted out like models at a fashion shoot, every whisker set perfectly in place.

Some of the bigger name wildlife publications, like Smithsonian and National Geographic, either refuse to run or run very few of the captive animal photos and credit them as such when they do. But less rigorous publications (whose number is far greater than that of those who abstain) serve up images of game farm animals with little or no qualification. Kathy Moran, a photography editor for National Geographic, explains:

They claim these animals are ‘wildlife ambassadors.' No. An injured animal used for education-that's a wildlife ambassador. An animal kept solely for profit is an exploited animal. The wild isn't pretty. I'd rather see it real than all gussied up. When I see a poster of a big, beautiful air-blown lion galloping toward me with a mane that looks better than my hair, I feel cheated.

I didn't feel cheated before, I don't think, but now I probably will. For more on the great wildlife photography sham, check out Williams' article, "Picture Perfect." [Utne Reader via The Atlantic]

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