Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Understanding  Nature through Photography and the Intents of Nature Photographers

Naoyuki Ohara's picture
Ohara, Naoyuki
Yasuhiro, Yamanaka
Gregory, Trencher
Category of presentation: 

By examining the intent, preparatory processes and challenges of 17 nature photographers in Hokkaido, we studied : (1) their preparatory process before shoots and the intent that drives their works, (2) the self-identity and meaning attributed to their role as nature photographers, and (3) challenges encountered in conveying their intent to the public through images, and countermeasures to overcome these.

Findings revealed that most nature photographers actively absorb scientific knowledge related to their subjects during the preparatory process. Such knowledge is sourced by examining scientific literatures, viewing books, and actively engaging with researchers from the natural sciences. A core intention for nature photographers is to record and demonstrate their understanding of their photographic subject. In doing so, photographers combine their acquisition of knowledge from the natural sciences with the in-depth understanding gained from first-hand from extensive field observations. Yet in constructing their self-identity as nature photographers and attributing such a sense of purpose to their work, we discovered they are grappling with significant internal tensions and contradictions when deciding the optimal distance to place between their profession and other related fields like stock photographers and artistic photographers—who do not share similar intent when taking images. We also found that there were some cases where the original intention of photographs could be masked or erased as images are circulated via online stock photo libraries. The increasing diffusion of photographic images through the stock photo system might, therefore, rob the occasion for readers to obtain valuable knowledge about nature from nature photographers. If such paradigm remains, masking and erasing the raison-d’etre of nature photographers and eventually, the public might experience greater difficulties in accessing photographs backed by quality assurance of the natural sciences.