By "photo safari" or "photo hunting" is intended the
photography at wild animals free in their habitat. The origin of the term dates
(at least in Italy) from the early '70s, when it was first proposed through
photography a bloodless alternative to usual hunting, in these times the
prevalent form of "recreational" interaction between mankind and
animals, in a world that already could well do less of it. The term
"photographic hunting" was appropriate, immediately suited to embody
its alterity. From hunting, as a matter of fact, wildlife photography borrows
some aspects, because the "subjects" are the same.
are clothes, the habitats, approaching and hiding techniques, the accessories
and especially the boastings amongs friends. Alike are the long waitings, the
senses on alert, that baggage of suggestions due to a more or less atavistic and
justifiable predatory instinct; similar the joy of freely wandering in nature.
Similar is the pathos of that moment in which taking aim (framing) one could
finalize hours of efforts (often days, for the photographer). These similarities
are only apparent, though: attitude and spirits are in fact different.
photograph nature, even when timing and reflexes are necessary, is first of all
observation, contemplation and finally compassion, from the Latin cum
passionem, that is feelings sharing. Whereas the hunter declares with manly
temperament (have you ever seen women huntress?) his superiority and his
dominion over Nature, the photographer is gratified right by feeling himself as
an integral part of it, treating other beings with equal dignity. Extraordinary,
in this sense, that in the third millennium a hunter holds even more rights and
freedom of movement than a photographer for the only reason that he embraces a
rifle instead of a camera.
But in the
final act that the already tenuous similarities stop completely and
abruptly. The two activities, on the contrary, take diametrically opposed,
antithetical roads. Hunting involves a bloody end, since it is neither more nor
less than the physical elimination of another living being for fun; told like
that it grotesue and creepy, but it is exactly what happens. In the difference
between a trigger and a release button, between the violence of a shot and the
soft whirling of a camera motor: here lies the abyss between a death caused and
the beauty celebrated througg images, the joyful exaltation of life. The
distance could not be greater. The photographer looks for a contact with
wildlife because he is hungry of life, and it is doing that sharing the feeling
with others, when his pictures are offered to be seen by people. Nothing to do
with a selfish act of death.
photographer takes a picture with the awareness that his "target"
continues to live; he doesn't break off, doesn't destroy, doesn't eliminate. No
feathers explosions, no elegant flights which, in a whirl of feathers, break
into an ungraceful and tragic falling after the sound of a shot. No
desperate and bloody escapes, with bowels exposed, waiting to be lacerated by
dogs. Harsh images, but killing is never a clean act. That's it, this is the
premise, the purpose and the culmination of a hunt: a bloody death. Even in the
worst cases, an ambitious photographer, coarse, vain or ignorant is not even
close to that (and there are several of them, no doubt: those who interpret
nature photography as competition with animals or with other photographers).
definitely I do not like the term "photo safari (hunting)". I would
really like it were a different definition: what was good 35 years ago may not
be convenient now. Many things have changed since then, thanks to nature
photography. The Anglo-Saxons used the term wildlife photography, the
French simply say photographie animaliere (animal photography). Doesn't
matter: the point is to keep distance from a culture of death. We are not
talking here just about an affected, politically correct habit, but about an
opposite way to face a topic which is life itself. Everything, in this world of
global communication, is about words and what they contain. Words are
instruments of great power, and who controls them usually rules. Words are
stones, words can hurt, sometimes kill. And "hunting" is one of them.