Wildlife Photographer Stripped of Award

As I discussed in this earlier post, there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the authenticity of José Luis Rodriguez’s photo of a wolf jumping a fence at night. The judging panel has reconvened, examined the photo with the help of wolf experts and decided that Rodriguez’s wolf was a model. He has now been stripped of his award.

In a statement on the Wildlife Photographer of the Year site, the organizers state, “The judging panel was reconvened and concluded that it was likely that the wolf featured in the image was an animal model that can be hired for photographic purposes,” and the result is that Rodriguez has been stripped of his award and banned for life from future competitions.

Though Rodriguez has repeatedly denied hiring a wolf, the panel believed it had accumulated sufficient evidence to confirm that the wolf in the photo is the same as a wolf available for hire as a model from a zoological park near Madrid.

In my opinion, it’s a gorgeous photo regardless of whether or not a model was used. Had Rodriguez originally admitted to using a model, his photo may not have won a prize (in this particular competition) and may not have gotten the publicity he did (both the good and the bad), but he would have had a much cleaner reputation and conscience.

When it first became public that the photo was under investigation, I had hoped that Rodriguez would be vindicated. I naively hoped that it was real because I like to believe in the idea of magical moments like this. Even more so, I love believing in the idea of being able to photographically capture magical moments like this.

Of course, the fact that this wasn’t quite so fantastic doesn’t ruin those possibilities. It’s just nice to see a little bit of magic made manifest now and then. It nurtures a healthy sense of wonder.

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