|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
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
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.