Disclosure and Game Farm Photography

2012 Ron Day

Wildlife game farms are available in many parts of the country.  They offer photographers the opportunity to photograph a variety of captive, often exotic, wild animals in a natural setting, at a fraction of the time and cost of finding and photographing the animals in the wild.  

In a couple of days at a game farm, a competent photographer can produce excellent, even stunning images of wildlife;  images, which would draw admiration if taken in the wild.  Realistic photographs of these animals are becoming prevalent in the marketplace.

When viewing a photograph of an undisclosed game farm animal in a magazine, the reader likely assumes the picture was taken in the wild.  Consequently, the marketing and publishing of photographs of game farm animals, and captive animals generally, raises ethical questions about disclosure. 

Tropical Fish at Reef (Aquarium + Composite)

Confronting the issue, the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), for the purpose of maintaining integrity and trust among nature photographers, photo users and the public, has adopted a Truth in Captioning Statement "suggesting" the abbreviation "Capt" be used to identify an image of "any living creature in a zoo, game farm, cage, net, trap, or in drugged or tethered conditions."

While photographers have the right to photograph what and where they wish, clients and the public have the right not to be misled when those images are placed before them.  Therefore, any photograph of a captive animal should be appropriately labeled.  

Moreover, respect is due the skillful photographer who captures a remarkable image of an elusive animal in the wild, and disclosure through appropriate labeling honors that belief.

Until the use of captive animals in photography is routinely and customarily disclosed, the public will have the right to question the authenticity of various photographic images, and the character of those who make them.