|Photo left: We Don't Deserve This Planet.|
Photo right: © Sergey Gorshkov, Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020.
Two images caught my attention last week. The images contrast, yet they are connected. The first was posted on the Facebook site We Don’t Deserve This Planet on 15 October 2020. The second is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 announced on 14 October 2020.
The photograph of the chimp sitting on the stump of a destroyed tree evokes feelings of sadness and compassion. The fold of its arms and the look on the chimp’s face shows deep loss, anguish, and despair. The chimp has not only had a home destroyed but has also lost a loved companion.
As if to prove that animals are capable of love, the second image clearly reveals the depth of the possible love between a Siberian tigress and a Manchurian fir. The tigress visibly appreciates and respects the tree and the forest.
Both photographs reveal the connection between love and grief. Grief has been likened to loving that which has disappeared. Love, as grief’s corollary, as a way of grieving that which has not yet slipped from view.1 Grief and love are twins, one is not possible without the other.
The chimp and the tigress show the reality of this twinship.
What if we look beyond these two photographs? Is it possible to recognise what is not in the frame, what is missing? In neither photograph is the photographer seen, revealed only by name. The lack of a seen photographer could suggest a false objectivity, a false distancing of photographer and photographed. Yet nature, of which we are a part, is not an assembly of disconnected objects. All is intimately connected.
Our emotional responses to these photographs confirm that inter-connection.
Something else is missing, at least from the first photograph. Missing is the human, or humans, who chopped down and destroyed the tree upon which the chimp laments.
Our human destructiveness is rooted in an inability to recognise the connectedness of everything. Our disconnect and destructive desire is eloquently revealed in the face of the chimp.
Yes indeed, both these photographs show the love that these two animals have for their habitat and for the trees of the forest.
Both photographs also allow us to recognise what is not revealed, what is not captured via the camera lens.
Sometimes we need to look beyond appearances.
1. Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2015.