Zoos. So right for some reasons, so wrong for others. Is showing the Earth's magnificent beings within a caged environment worthwhile an in-person closeup? (I promise not to make this a preaching, lobbying blog on eliminating zoos from our society - rather a commentary from one photographers takeaways from shooting zoos vs. shooting on safari.)
Living in this world of visual saturation, with photographers going to extremes providing never-ending free looks of this wild planet of ours, is the joy and thrill of visiting a zoo now diminishing? I have even struggled with the "why bother?" loss of inspiration to get out there and shoot as my eyes and memory banks are filled with others' work. (Note to self - stop following NatGeo on Instagram - lol.)
Now, who doesn't love a trip to the Zoo? Kids, adults, tourists, animal enthusiasts absolutely benefit from the close-up looks they get of the Earth's wildlife creatures that perhaps they would never see in their natural habitat. As an animal lover and wildlife photographer, I have benefitted greatly from my trips to Zoos across the United States and Europe. Some fantastic closeup opportunities, offering (for some) a once in a lifetime perspective on animals one would only find via photographs. Perspective. Photography. That's really what photography all about: providing a personal, or widely exposed, publicly-shared unique perspective on life.
The disheartening experience of a Zoo visit is drawing the conclusion that these animals are not truly experiencing the life they were destined to live. Sure they are safe from poachers, surrounded by care specialists, but seeing the King of the Jungle being fed a side of beef in a concrete-walled enclosure is downright wrong. That is, It FEELS wrong. It looks wrong. I have captured apes acting apathetic and looking entirely bored. Sitting still. Looking at me like "yea, not much fun around here, I know glare." (My own interpretation, of course.)
This fellow stared at me, unmoved, for minutes on end. The energy felt was complete boredom.
Now, perspective was unusual and unique. Knowing a brief period of patience was usually all it took to find an intriguing animal in an intriguing angle, position, interaction, light and shadow. Opportunities were abound and some grand in scale to capture these caged wonders of this world. Photographically a most cherished event that I am grateful for. That said, a missing "big picture" perspective is simply not to be found.
In summary, my zoo visits have left me underwhelmed which gratefully field my commitment to get out to see these living wonders in their natural state. A wildlife safari journey was born. I got out my piggy banks and started planning. Realizing a trip to africa was a few years off, my curiosity into wildlife parks got my attention. (next blog on those experiences…)