The perils of providing shark images to media
:: Thursday, July 9th, 2009 @ 10:30:10 am
:: Tags: Photo, Photojournalism, sharks
an article today in the sun featured some of my images
I had three articles come out today in the U.K. about some lemon shark images I took in the Bahamas:
- Telegraph: Lemon sharks feeding frenzy in Bahamas captured on camera
- The Sun: Shark photos are jaw-some
- Mail Online: Open wide! The extraordinary pictures inside the mouths of sharks at feeding time
Some wildlife photographers and conservationists out there are very much against images of sharks with jaws agape being shown in the media. Whenever I’m providing images of sharks with jaws open to stock agencies, I worry that the images will be used for sensationalist pieces that fuel the typical person’s media-driven fear of sharks.
In the interview for the articles linked above, I wrote this:
Shark photographers who are also conservationists exist in a strange area — we have both protective and sensationalist attitudes toward sharks. On the one hand, we hate to see so-called “sell-out” television programs who only serve to exploit sharks as being dangerous predators who may bite humans. At the same time, we love to capture images of sharks that show their power and predatory skill. If you look at the statistics, very few humans are killed by sharks each year. Given the actual numbers, it’s pretty ridiculous that people are afraid of sharks. I hope to use my shark imagery to start a dialog that will help to dispel common misperceptions about sharks.
Obviously, my quote didn’t make it into any of the articles. One even decided to include “feeding frenzy” in the title even though I made it clear in the interview that sharks were baited to the boat using fish scraps (i.e. there was no feeding frenzy). Still, the text of the articles are pretty neutral, and the comments in the Daily Mail article are all civil and respectful of sharks.
There is no doubt that some people in the shark “conservation” industry, a group of people who seem to be best at fighting with each other rather than focusing on protecting sharks, will not be so happy to see shark teeth in these articles. I did convince the same press agency that supplied these articles do an article about the evils of shark-finning, so using sensationalist images to open dialogs about conservation issues can be effective.