The Trusty, Trusted Camera

Welcome to the latest in a series of posts about wildlife films and their representation of nature.  New readers can catch up with an introduction to the history of wildlife films, Disney’s True-Life Adventures or Disney’s more recent foray into big screen family-friendly wildlife documentaries.

In this post I’ll be rewinding back to the precursor to wildlife filmmaking: photography. Concern about a film’s authenticity or the decisions of particular filmmakers are in line with a much older discourse regarding the authenticity of photographs of animals, and with the prevalence of professional and amateur photographers today, publishers walk a fine line between disclosing the gory details (which nowadays include staging, rented animals, and Photoshop) of how certain shots were obtained and losing an audience expecting the increasingly spectacular between the pages of National Geographic.…

Wildlife Films 101

Man can have but one interest in nature, namely, to see himself reflected there; and we quickly neglect both poet and philosopher who fail to satisfy, in some measure, this feeling. John Burroughs, A Year in the Fields.

When was the last time you saw a wild animal? Leaving out pets, squirrels, and pigeons, there’s a good chance it was in one of two places: Youtube, home of hilarious cat videos emailed by colleagues (like this one) or in a wildlife film.

Wildlife films are remarkable intersections between human and animal life at both the level of their production by naturalists and filmmakers and their consumption by the public. This film genre has been a major player in the 20th century relationship between the public and the “wild,” however construed. And even though the science of animal behavior seems to have reached more people through wildlife on film than any other modern medium, the topic remains for the most part unexplored in the field of history and philosophy of science. I think wildlife films have a tremendous amount to offer interdisciplinary accounts of the relationships between human beings, biology, and wildlife.