Another Sad Story…

Discredited Lynx Photo by Terje Helleso

Can you see the cat at the bottom of this photo?  It is purported to be a wild European Lynx, shot through forest vegetation that gives the image a sense of mystery – entirely appropriate for such a secretive, rarely-seen animal.  The only trouble is that this picture – which won the “Swedish Wildlife Photographer of the Year” award for Terje Helleso – has been shown to be a fake, a composite of a landscape and a stock photo of a captive cat.

To learn more, go here.

This comes less than two years after a similar scandal rocked the prestigious BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in the UK. (In that case, the winning photographer tried to pass off a captive and baited wolf as a wild one) Details here.

What is surprising is not that people continue to fake pictures like this, further eroding the value of genuine, hard-won wildlife photography. What I find surprising is that in both cases, the photographer did it in such high-profile, highly-scrutinized venues, and almost got away with it.

This is not just a comment on the challenge of recognizing fakes in this Universe of Photoshop, but that the pressure to rise above the competition, to out-shoot your peers, makes this kind of behavior almost inevitable.

In an article I wrote for the BBC a few years ago, I expressed the fear that we were in danger of losing the “Wow” factor in photography, the sense of delight and astonishment that comes from a genuinely remarkable picture. Whether it is the use of trained animals, dishonest composites, or the wild exaggeration and over-saturation becoming so commonplace in much current landscape photography, we are in real danger of squandering what makes photography worthwhile, it’s ability to inspire real, genuine wonder.   I find that terribly sad.