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What's wrong with harassment?

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19 hours ago, Leehank said:

There has been a few photos on the wetpixel facebook page of late where human forced interaction and harassment is apparent and even encouraged. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the ethos here vs the wetpixel fb page. I think the controversy of interaction is driving lots of impressions and traffic which is something that might need addressing.

Are you suggesting that the admins of the Wetpixel FB group are encouraging "human forced interaction and harassment?" 

I must confess that I do not see any disconnect. The Wetpixel forum and the FB group are both about discussing underwater image making, and sharing ideas and imagery. This should include discussing ethically dubious techniques and calling it out when it occurs. 

I confess that I find it ironic the levels of opprobrium that is directed at images that show interactions in which the animal is quite free too simply swim away, compared to the complete lack of it when the animals are not being handled when the shutter is released. Seahorses in the water column, boxer crabs in the open, mantis shrimp with eggs in the open, yawning frogfish etc. I think the normalizing of these kinds of images is far more damaging than ones in which physical contact is obvious and can be discussed. 

To quote my response to an images on the FB group recently: 

"As photographers, we need to assume responsibility for our images' effects on an audience. When doing so, we need to beware that the bulk (obviously excluding Wetpixel FB Group members!) of the people viewing our images do not have the ability to determine whether an image depicts positive or negative behavior. The issue is that images showing negative interactions can become normalized, and people start accepting negative images as depicting a naturally occurring behavior. 

For example, the widespread practice of picking benthic species (e.g.octopus and seahorse) up and dropping/releasing them to get images of them in the water column has created a fashion for these types of images. These are generally well-received by the audience as they assume that this is a naturally occurring behavior.However, I am also well aware that the oceans are a big place, and creatures behave in unpredictable ways.

Again as an example, I have (once) seen a wonderpus jet itself up into the water column for no apparent reason. So as a photographer, should I share my image of that encounter? My argument is that I should not, as this may encourage others to emulate the image less responsibly, and it normalizes these images. 

To return to Don Hunter's image, it obviously depicts a memorable and unique encounter with an iconic species. The sunfish was always free to swim away! I have also heard of plenty of other similar interactions with sunfish. However, I would suggest that a better approach to the sharing of this particular image would be to post a beautiful image of the model posing with the sunfish (this was a golden opportunity to do so) without the contact, which captures both the amazing proximity of the encounter and the beauty of the animal."

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Hey Adam, Thanks for writing back, I didn't see it until now.

Not at all am I suggesting that, sorry if it came across that way. Quite the opposite. I really enjoy the ethos that you and Alex and the posters here encourage for underwater shooters. It's great to see people be vocal about reducing underwater interactions and to promote ethical diving.
I 100% agree with you about making sure the methodologies used to get photos where handling and interaction aren't always apparent but induce a behavior or an unnatural setting, are questioned openly.

I meant that there are people that are posting to the FB page that do show quite heavy handed interactions, such as the sunfish photo, for example, and people are getting pretty vocal about how touching animals isn't such a big deal. I find it ironic that they chose this community to have these debates when ethical photography is held in such high regard here. Hope that clears it up.

Edited by Leehank

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On 2/2/2021 at 11:46 AM, adamhanlon said:

yawning frogfish

@adamhanlon I always used to think that at some point, frogfish (and others) naturally yawned for whatever biological reason.

Since, I've read that: fish do not yawn, at least not the way we do. They do open their mouths sometimes, but that is typically to attract mates or deter aggressors. And perhaps this is exactly your point about normalisation through images - that I used to think this was just a natural occurrence.

So that then makes me wonder, is the photographer / guide purposely harassing the critter to make it yawn? Or perhaps just waiting extremely close to a critter harasses the subject enough to make it yawn, so that the photographer thinks they've "captured a natural moment"?


...or am I that gullible, whereas in reality most photographers know a yawn is totally coaxed and just force the image? :) 

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