WatsonPhotography.ca | Photography and Ethics

Photography and Ethics

July 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This week we have seen some disturbing news coming out of Zimbabwe. Walter J. Palmer of Minnesota has been accused of hunting down and killing Cecil the Lion. Cecil was the much loved and lion patriarch of Hwange National Park. What becomes of Walter J. Palmer remains to be seen. Judging from the swift internet reaction to the event is not likely to be pretty. The internet is very reactionary to the event. In our modern age quite often 15 minutes of internet fame does not translate to long term recognition of the issue.

Other disturbing news has surfaced out of Kenya. Five endangered elephants have been slain so that poachers could cut off their tusks for sale in the illegal trade. This is another example where hunting is not done for food purposes but for purposes that many have labelled as "pyschotic" or "mental". 

Killing of Endangered Elephants

What can we do as photographers? The answer lies back in our image catalogs. As our photography skills increase we acquire images that are commercial and can be sold for various purposes. This is where the journey towards image sales becomes fragmented. In our photography perspective with rose colored glasses we tend to view an ideal world. We often think the sale of commercial images of wildlife will result in the publication of images in National Geographic, nature magazines, fine art prints or calendars.

This is far from the truth. Commercial images from stock agencies are quite often purchased by hunting magazines. The total revenue last year for books and magazines devoted to hunting  was $124,313,000. These magazines perpetuate the ruthless slaughter of defenseless animals. Whether they are in the wilderness, national parks or game preserves. These animals do not have a knife, crossbow or gun to defend themselves.













** Google screen shot of typical hunting magazines. 

Photographers can make a stand and make an ethical and moral choice on the subject or they can go after commercial profit. The choice is up to them. You can enforce commercial sales contracts of your images and stipulate they are only for nature, environmental, fine art print, calendar or you can donate your images to animal preservation causes.

We all face ethical and moral decisions in our lives. The time is now to make a stand and refuse to sell our images to commercial hunting publications.

Ricky Gervais has summed it up the best.

"It's not for food. It's not the shooting, or tin cans would do. It must just be the thrill of killing. Mental. "

Not all photographers license their images for commercial purposes. There is still something that we can do to stop "trophy" hunting.

  1. Communicate with your local legislative or government representative and motivate them to draft legislation to deny the transport of trophy animals over international borders.
  2. Buy stock in major international airlines and become a shareholder activist. In the annual general meeting for stockholders submit a proposal to shareholders to prohibit the transport of of trophy animals.
  3. Step up to the plate and book a "photo" safari to Africa. You can do this by supporting organizations and outfits that actively support the conservation of wildlife. Don't believe anything the trophy hunting community tells you. Less than 3 % of trophy hunting fees went to conservation. 97% went to lines the pockets of corrupt guides and officials. Photo safarism is the way to go.


Update: A number of airlines including Air Canada, Delta, American and United Airlines announced they will no longer ship big-game animal carcasses, or 'trophies', for hunters who want to bring their kill home. Other airlines are expected to follow suit in the near future.

Image credit: CBS news

Watsonphotography.ca creates unique images of fashion, models, travel, people and racing sports by the Toronto based photographer Peter Watson.














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