Book Review: Photographers Against Wildlife Crime

Just once in a while, a book on wildlife appears that can make you gulp as you thumb through its pages. Photographers Against Wildlife Crime is not an easy book to read in one session for it will tug at the heartstrings, evoke anger and also, thank goodness a degree of hope, without which we would be lost.

With hand on heart, I can say that this is one of the most important books based upon wildlife photography that has been published in recent times. If you are reading this review, then you will already have a passion for nature and so such a work might be preaching to the choir. However, it is the extent of the horror in wildlife crime, the sums of money involved and the sheer pointlessness of the cruel destruction of our neighbours on planet earth that we need to see. If others can get to read your copy, then so much the better…

The project was conceived and driven by Britta Jaschinski and Keith Wilson, then subsequently came to fruition via a successful crowd-funding operation. To begin with, the photography is superb and supported by a text that is compelling and extremely well written. Many of the images have featured as competition winners worldwide. The reproduction in this book is of the very highest quality and Britta and Keith sought out EBS printers in Verona, Italy where the work is stunning. 

If you look at the credits listing those involved, you find a veritable galaxy of the best of wildlife photographers currently working in the conservation orbit: Chris Packham, Steve Winter, Brian Skerry, Jim Brandenburg and many more, plus the writing skills of Keith Wilson. 

Britta Jaschinski has deservedly gained considerable recognition for her evocative black and white imagery published over the last two decades. Accolades and awards include being twice elected as European Wildlife Photographer of the Year by the GDT, Category Winner and then judge with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and a winner of the Big Picture:Natural World competition. Not bad for someone who considers herself as a photojournalist first rather than a wildlife photographer.

I first met Britta when we were both speakers at WildPhotos in London and I had to follow her with an audience stunned (and many in tears – including me) on seeing her images of animals in Chinese circuses. Britta is great company, a very outgoing person, bubbling with enthusiasm and humour which is a useful foil in coping with the harrowing material she has photographed. Britta does not avert her eyes…In fact, we should never get the idea that it is somehow easier for those who have contributed to this book for they carry on driven by what they perceive as a greater good when hurting like hell and, understandably,  hating those with whom they have to deal

Keith Wilson is an editor of great experience and skill who also writes extremely well as this book shows.  I first encountered Keith aeons ago when submitting articles to AP (and we both had hair!) and then working with him supplying articles for Outdoor Photographer and most recently WildPlanet Photomagazine which he built up and made successful.  So I know well that here is someone who is not afraid to speak out and his passion for wildlife and doing something positive is clearly evidenced by previous projects: Remembering Elephants, Remembering Rhinos and now Remembering the Great Apes. 

Together Britta and Keith make a formidable team – dedicated pros who also have the ‘street cred’ to be able to involve many of the top names in Wildlife and conservation photography and get the stories behind them with luminaries such as Roz Kidman Cox, Kathy Moran and Jim Brandenburg  to write the introduction, frontispiece comment  and afterword respectively.

To sum up the project, I cannot better what Roz Kidman Cox (a former editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine and now chair of the judges for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year) says in her introduction: 

The photographers who have contributed their thought-provoking images for this book have different styles and skills. Some set out to highlight injustice through statement art, creating images that are unforgettable through their power – fury expressed beautifully. Others take dismembered beauty and reincarnate in a haunting arrangement, turning evidence into art. Other UC iconography of classical art to give their compositions human resonance, echoing a crucifixion, a deathbed repose or the spoils of war…’

I frequently despair of humankind mainly because of the endemic stupidity, crass greed and vicious cruelty shown towards other species on this planet and to both their (and our future). Many, if not all of you reading this review will share my deep love of the natural world and as you go through this book it will be hard to hold back tears of deep sorrow and of utter rage. However, what gave a real boost to the soul was being at there launch in London meeting old friends making new ones seeing so many determined and enthusiastic people all of whom have dedication, passion and care in spades 

Thus, I cannot help but feel a special link with this book and wanting it to succeed because I know first hand of the skill, commitment and sheer dedication of those who have contributed images. Here are people who are the ultimate pros many of whom make considerable personal sacrifices to support their work, existing on a shoestring budget.

This is not quick-fix photography for there has been a personal risk to those who have obtained images even though it has caused them incredible personal distress at times. I feel that they deserve immense credit for their courage and persistence when it is far too easy to avert the gaze or to cover the eyes, and pretend the Garden of Eden is filled with scented roses. There are enormous sums of money behind the vile trade in wild animal exploitation and people to whom any life…including human (especially those who record the atrocities), is not sacred.

The book is a chronicle of the horrors of exploitation of our fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth and, yet, it is also a testament to a unique collection of our fellow humans determined to use their communicative skills to make a difference in a callous world. That unity of purpose gives me hope when so many of our fellow inhabitants of planet earth are regarded as a resource to fuel the ignorance and superstition of folk medicines, a nuisance in the way of the rape of the land, for example, with enormous sums of money to be made…and a risk of extinction to the species concerned.

We need to look after the here and now with compassion instead of which we have insane exploration of resources with no thought for tomorrow, absurdly corrupt business and politicians and extreme dangers from high pollution levels to the cruelty of slaughter both of wild creatures and those harvested for domestic purposes. 

Most of us, filled with rage, would rush to point the finger at the absurdity of traditional Eastern medicines and run the danger of alienating the very people  who might have the power to halt the practices. This book treads the path very carefully and will be published in Mandarin, too.

The authors and photographers in this book have answered a wake-up call and we can support them and use the same caring philosophy to give some purpose to our own work. Our children and grandchildren must never look at all those wonderful creatures we admire and love in their history books and say “if only…”

You can get more information, and order the book, from www.photographersagainstwildifecrime.com.

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Paul Harcourt Davies
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Paul Harcourt Davies is an outdoor photographer, author and passionate naturalist who has long been dubbed the ‘macromaestro’ both for the painstaking and the artistic qualities of his close-up and macro work and for the way he always seeks to demystify techniques and make them accessible to all.

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