Today I read about the finalists for this years WPOTY competition (2017), and was held in wide eyed awe as I looked at the selected photographs.
That was until I got to the photo of the Sumatran tiger in a cage. The photo made me feel uncomfortable, and I was questioning why it had been included in amongst the finalists.
So I read the full description of the photograph, and how it came about: I would recommend you reading that here so you can form your own opinion.
Now let me be clear, I have no axe to grind with the photographer who took it (Steve Winter from the USA), but I do question the ethical reasons for this photo being considered as a finalist. To that end my issue is with WPOTY judges and judging decisions.
Let me explain why:
1. The animal is in a cage, obviously captive. How is this then a truly 'wild' animal? It's not in its natural environment and is distressed because of the man made surroundings it finds itself in.
2. If you look at the tiger, you can see it is distressed. Eyes open wide, ears down and back with open mouth and teeth bared this creature is very uncomfortable with the situation it is in. I can assume that the presence of a photographer snapping away is not helping things. We can probably assume a number of photos were taken of this situation and not just the one.
3. If you read the photograph description you will see that the animal has undergone surgery and is recovering. Again, its not in its natural environment and is a man-made one, clearly distressed.
So is it right that an animal photographed in this unfortunate situation should be part of a wildlife photography competition? What is being judged here?
Is it the technical ability of the photographer presenting a dramatic and clear image that is being judged? Does the impact of the photo make it more desirable irrespective of the situation the animal finds itself in? Is it ethically correct to have this type of image as in a competition entry, and such a high profile competition at that?
Personally for me I find it wrong that this image is included. If this was used to highlight the plight of Sumatra tigers and the problems they face in being trapped and hunted, then all well and good, but for the glory (?) of winning a photography competition, that I have a problem with.
My biggest issue here is that a photograph of a clearly distressed animal is being used in a. competition. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I disagree with it. Where is the consideration for the animals welfare in the way this photograph is presented? I don't think in this situation there is any.
I just wonder what others feel about it.
Thanks for reading.