I suppose that, in the interests of fair play we should lead with the statement that Mr Rodriguez continues to “strongly deny that the wolf in the image is a model wolf…”
Right, that’s done. I am as angry as Niall: I saw the announcement after he did then went out for a walk in the sun, kicked a tree or two and came in to write.
One thing we have done on this blog, whatever the private feelings and misgivings since we received our original email from Spain, is not pander to the conspiracy theorists who infest the internet. There is a prevailing tendency to judge and damn…conveniently forgetting innocence until ‘proven’ guilty. ‘Absolute proof’ was always going to be impossible to obtain, especially in view of the Rodriguez denial and that is clearly why the decision has been agonised over when the balance of probabilities would have to rule.
Yes, the statement may have been a long time coming, but perhaps one should laud the fact that the behind-the-scenes investigations were thorough and that those faced with the decisions did not leap to conclusions.
In fact, anyone who cares about integrity and loves the natural world should applaud the fact that the ‘co-owners’ have come out and disqualified the image. Inevitably, there will be carping from the “I told you so” brigade who will say they knew all along. Well, no they did not and it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the genuine from the false. We live in a very grubby world: I live in Italy (enough said?) and have close contact with the UK. In both countries overt lying is part and parcel of commercial and political life. One is thought to be naïve if one opposes those ‘realities’.
The important thing is that we have to be able to take the integrity of an image as read if the wider role of natural history photographers is to have any validity and, most importantly, if those of us who toil with conservation projects want to have our voices heard and note taken.
Yes, it is ‘sad’ that something like this has happened and a lot more than merely ‘sad’ for José Luis Rodriguez who will find it impossible to shake the tag of ‘cheat’ – the rules were his to read in Spanish. But how refreshing it is to find one area of life where people have shown integrity. How many commercial organisations would have chosen the route of least impact and then we would never have known? It is something I gently hinted at before…’confusion over semantics’; both sides a little to blame and so on…To any student of human nature (and the self-interested way organisations usually work) that would have been the obvious prediction.
But that is not what happened and the outcome will make people think twice about being anything other than honest in this competition at least. Yes, the prize money might be an incentive to deceive for some fools. The consequences are clear: ruination of a reputation and a future.
As Niall said the REAL stories – the tragedies in this world – are so much more important than this. At least this shows there are folk there with integrity at work in a world where those in authority sacrifice integrity on the altar of pragmatism and do not turn a hair…It’s over, flushed out into the open. There is an awful lot of good we can all do if INTEGRITY is what we preserve in our photography. And don’t forget; there were concerned Spanish photographers who cared, too.