In the replies to the article I wrote on camera traps and ethics, eagle eyed readers of this blog might have noticed a short-lived posting (23rd November 2009) from a Spanish source “Vince” that alleged the Veolia competition-winning, wolf picture taken by José Luis Rodriguez had used a captive animal. And how did “Vince” know..? Well, he claimed that he had been there.
After a flurry of emails between us and a couple of un-fulfilled requests to the source for ‘evidence’ Niall and I decided that, in the absence of confirmation, we should remove the comment and e-mailed “Vince” accordingly: emails bounced back. We also contacted Roz Kidman-Cox, one of the judges (and a friend whom both Niall and I have known for a very long time) to let her know and she confirmed, that they had received details of allegations and that the judges were already investigating.
Spanish photographer José Luis Rodriguez has strongly repudiated any accusations of wrong doing on his part and maintains that there is a conspiracy against him from jealous fellow photographers, particularly since those voices are anonymous. At least two UK newspapers, The Guardian and the Mail have run stories about the investigation and the allegations. A detailed article by Juha Kauppinen on the Finnish nature magazine site Suomen Luonto includes close-ups of a wolf ‘Ossian’ from the Cañada Real Open Centre that is alleged to be the subject of the shot.
The judges are people of the highest calibre, well aware of the integrity of this competition and behind the scenes the matter is being thoroughly investigated and will report in due course. There is a lot at stake for both competition and photographer.
The competition’s rules state under ‘Subjects and Ethics’ that: “Images of captive animals must be declared. The judges will take preference to images taken in free and wild conditions.” Further that: “Pictures of animals being restrained in any way, or animal models or any other animals being exploited for profit may not be entered…”
It struck me on reading this that the wording might not be something that non-English speaking entrants of this world competition might always appreciate – to some ‘captive’ means zoos: in game parks animals are ‘free’…It’s just a thought.
There are numerous instances of so-called ‘wildlife photographers’ who have ‘forgotten’ to point out in a caption that an animal was captive (in books and magazine as well as competitions) and there is a running debate over the ethics involved. However, the bottom line is that for wildlife photographers to be taken seriously and to occupy any position of trust from which they might do some good then integrity must be unimpeachable: ergo, no fakery and fiddling either pre- or post shooting.
There is a disturbing human trait wherein people set on pedestals are there to be knocked off. Ability and success are resented…we should not forget that in rushing to think the worse of what is, after all, a remarkable piece of work