A loud ping on my computer signalled the arrival yesterday (13 Jan) of the invitation to pay my £20.00 and enter the 2010 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. So I glanced over the document and the following caught my eye:
“…A few other things have changed, too – we no longer allow captive animals, for example – so don’t forget to read the rules properly. Most of all, as part of our continuing efforts to encourage responsible wildlife photography, we stress that it is critically important to put the welfare of the animals and their habitats first…”
Very sensible and correct: is this ‘snippet’ in response to the controversy over the José Luis Rodriguez photograph and could there, as we have previously suggested on this blog, have been a linguistic misunderstanding?
The second item that drew my attention was the signaling of the provision (in pdf form) of translations of the rules into other languages including Spanish. These have, however, been available before and any plea of ignorance could thus, ‘in law’, be dismissed.
However, the very concept of ‘captivity’ changes with country and society. To many of us it means zoos; being held behind bars and fences. Suppose that those barriers are then pushed miles away – around a wildlife reserve, a game park, or even, in extremis, created by the sea, as in a small island. What then constitutes ‘captivity”…? Yes, it comes down to semantics but it’s worth pondering. I well know the dangers of ‘translation’…just last week I described to a friend how a beech marten had gone stomping over our roof at night, turning over roof tiles. My lazily mispronounced Italian for ‘roof ‘was confused with vulgar slang for breasts. It created pretty vivid images and caused hilarity…I am used to it!
The ‘negatives’ might say “well, if he couldn’t speak English… then he shouldn’t have entered”: believe me, there are ignorant xenophobes out there who write these things in the realm where the internet trawls for life forms lower than platyhelminths.
Arguably, the judges/organizers were ‘remiss’ in not considering the ‘weight ‘of words in a competition that has an international remit. Maybe, but who amongst us thinks in that anticipatory way? Certainly not our so-called ‘betters’, the politicians and their lawyers, who consistently fail to see the consequences of proposals and actions. And here we have ‘judges’ who are photographers, picture editors and biologists and, I daresay, a far more honest crew than any random selection of self-seeking politicos and kleptoparasitic legal folk.
From a position as an interested observer, I feel that a simple statement would have been/will be useful and everyone moves on. Then the competition goes on from strength to strength and a photographer ceases to be dragged though the mud. We’re still waiting: so, if there is nothing else why not say so ?