My name came up on Julie Chapman’s blog about the article by Thomas Mangelsen in Wildlife Art Journal. In addressing the post and comments there, I ended up adding to my thinking about the issue. The post is here. Here’s my comment.
I guess since my name has come up, I ought to show up and comment here, although I suspect that my comments on the Wildlife Art Journal article make my feelings about the subject pretty clear. I have thought a lot about game ranches since my two experiences at them and have come to feel that they are not a place that I choose to go, for the reasons that I and Mangelsen enumerate.
I don’t believe that for him, and I agree, the issue is being a purist, but of being honest about how and where one collects images of genetically wild animals. If the photo is not labeled “captive”, then people are free to assume, as most do, that the image was taken in the wild, as Larry, and I at one time, believed. Truth in advertising, I guess. That’s not at all the game ranch’s fault or responsibility.
Painters don’t have the same issue of attribution that a photographer has, since a good artist generally uses multiple reference, or brings a unique point of view, for a painting and doesn’t simply copy a single photograph, theirs or anyone else’s.
I think as we live our lives we all end up in the position of having friends, sometimes quite good friends, who do things or have beliefs that we don’t agree with. The choice is either to accept that or end the friendship. Mangelsen chose to stay friends with Bob Kuhn.
By “old school”, I think that he may have been referring more to a way of thinking about animals that has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. We have gone from Descartes’ view that they are “machines”, driven by instinct, feeling no pain and having no souls to a recognition that we share the world with many sentient species. Year by year, the definition of what separates homo sapiens from animals has to be modified. Oh, they use tools. Oh, they recognize themselves in a mirror. Oh, they have culture. Oh, they have a sense of fairness. Oh, they lie and cheat. And the list goes on.
I have found that in order to reconcile, and be personally ethically consistent with, what I have learned over the years about animals and from my involvement in animal welfare (definitely not PETA-type animal rights, a whole different deal) and dog and cat rescue, I can’t justify going to game ranches.
I can, with reluctance, accept zoos that are heavily involved with education, conservation and the preservation of endangered species. I’ve pretty much reached the point where I choose not to support activities in which animals are used for human entertainment where there is a significant risk of abuse, either physical, emotional or psychological. I await the day when animals are no longer needed in any kind of research because computer models are superior.
My thinking is constantly evolving in this area as I add to my knowledge. My husband and I decided last year to no longer eat meat that we cannot source and that we do not know to have come from animals who have been treated humanely. This includes eggs. We refuse to support industrial animal agriculture, with its battery cages, feedlots and cruel confinement.
I wish to emphasize that these are all personal choices. I have no wish to dictate what other artists, photographers or people, in general, choose to do.
I think you can see that my decision about game ranches is just one part of a larger question that I’ve been thinking about for years- What is the appropriate relationship between humans and the fellow creatures we share this planet with?
PS, Larry- Barry Bonds- Being a Giants fan, I watched the whole thing play out. My opinion, and it is just my opinion, is that he probably used something in the 1980s at a time when many players did, so maybe the playing field was effectively re-leveled during The Steroid Era. Maybe he should be prosecuted (he’s charged with perjury, not substance use per se), but then there’s quite a few other ball players who used stuff and lied about it. How come they’re not on trial? His biggest problem has maybe been his attitude, which alienated the sports media, who often seem to feel an amazing sense of entitlement in what they feel they are owed by pro athletes. I’m not pro or anti Barry, by the way. It is what it is. Giants fans have moved on.