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Phil Douglis | profile | all galleries >> Gallery Seventy Nine: at the zoo tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Gallery Seventy Nine: at the zoo

Photographing captive animals is often considered a much easier task than shooting wildlife subjects in the natural world. That is why zoo photography is so popular – you don’t have to travel long distances to track wild animals in game reserves around the world. There are, however, challenges to be met in expressive zoo photography. For example, while the captive animal may be present, it may be partially or completely hidden from view, or perhaps sound asleep. We must try to be at the zoo when the animals are active and in full view, usually early in the morning. And we must be sure to convey ideas about the animals we photograph.

The same principles that also govern expressive wild animal photography hold true for zoo photography. We must do more than simply describe the animal’s appearance. We must go beyond the level of description, and instead tell a story through abstraction, incongruity, and yes, even human values.

Above all, we must observe the ethics of animal photography. We must make it clear in our captions and titles that the animals we photograph in a zoo are captive, not photographed in the wild. Some photographers will post or publish zoo images without such attribution, implying that the image was made in the natural world when it actually was not. To do so is to intentionally deceive the viewer, which in my view is unethical.

I begin this gallery with nine images made during a morning at the remarkable San Diego, California, zoo. I will eventually be adding images to this gallery made in other zoos as well.

I present this gallery, as usual, in "blog" style. A large thumbnail is displayed for each image, along with a caption explaining how I intended to express my ideas. If you click on the large thumbnail, you can see it in its full size, as well as leave comments and read the comments of others. I hope you will be able to participate in the dialogue. I welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions, and will be delighted to respond.