GreenMuze ran a piece recently about ecoPaparazzi, a kind of social network for photographers and videographers who pursue images of environmental destruction, animal abuse and other eco-crimes along with images of the beauty of Nature. The piece was mostly an interview with ecoPaparazzi founder Jeanette McDermott. Reading it, I was reminded of both the power of images and the courage of activists in documenting and communicating ecological devastation.
Without taking anything away from their work, I’ll offer two brief thoughts.
First, it’s true that “paparazzi” is catchy and a bit edgy, but is it the right metaphor? I mean it brings to mind images of the most sleazy and mercenary kind of photography. As GreenMuze puts it, the negative connotations are pretty clear:
Paparazzi are pretty much universally thought of as an irritant at best, and absolute scum at worst. They are relentless in their pursuit, they intrude, spy, reveal, expose and shame.
Furthermore, these folks “stalk Earth abusers” instead of celebrities and founder Jeanette McDermott refers to herself as an “investigative photojournalist.” From the point of view of the “Earth abusers,” these people would be reviled in the way that celebrities often revile their paparazzi. But let’s pull apart the metaphor just a bit more. These folks are photographing crimes against the planet (as they see them) and are trying to expose wrong-doing. Not so with the celebrity paparazzi; they are in it for the money. What McDermott and her colleagues are doing is ethically-motivated rather than economically-motivated intrusion.
It seems that from both emotive and cognitive perspectives, the term paparazzi evokes the opposite of what these people are all about. They are activists, bearing witness and taking pictures to prove their points, and their work is tremendously important in communicating the terror some people are wreaking on the planet and its inhabitants. But they need a more accurate and positive sounding name. I can’t think of a term specifically for photographers who do this sort of thing, but perhaps readers can leave suggestions via the comment system.
My second thought can be articulated much more succinctly. While some of their images and videos can be seen on the ecoPaparazzi site, there does not appear to be a systematic way to search for, let alone license the use of the images. These people need to create an image bank and find a way to license the use of their work (perhaps through Creative Commons) in order to get it out there more widely. Or perhaps something like this already exists. Anyone know?