A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday that she was, essentially, tired of seeing the morbid images of abused dogs pop up in her mini feed and that she knew animal abuse existed without seeing it on Facebook. I heartily agreed.
Her post got me to thinking though – When is it appropriate to post grotesque images of animals who have been horribly abused?
There is a way to photograph animals that have suffered that doesn’t make the viewer want to vomit when they see the image. Trust me, I’ve done it, lots of times. I see animals that are abused in various ways all the time, from something as simple as neglect lending a helping hand to a bad case of mange to animals that are abandoned, beaten, broken, burned, chained, run over, starved and fought. I see it in real life, I don’t need to see it on Facebook, and other people don’t either.
It’s not like I haven’t been tempted to photograph animals the way I see others photograph them on Facebook, with images of just the wound, the giant, gaping hole in the dog’s leg from a cigarette burn or the chain scar around the neck. I have. But the desire to do so comes from a place of anger. It comes from somewhere dark and cruel and horrible. It comes from frustration and in the end, that’s not productive for the animal and it’s off-putting to the public.
There’s nothing positive to convey about the animal when all you show is his or her suffering. And what we love about animals, and especially dogs, is their ability to spring back from the suffering, to move forward. How many times have you heard people say their favorite thing about their dog is the dog’s capacity to forgive? One of the reasons we love animals is because they don’t live in the past like we do. So why do we feel this need to try and force the past onto them by using this campaign of shock and awe?
We don’t have to hide their disabilities or their wounds or their pasts, if we know them, but we shouldn’t emphasize them either. When they are emphasized, when all you post is a scar or a broken leg or a burned face, what are you really saying about the animal? They’re only worth their wounds?
This line of thinking lends itself to another, more important question – why would you convey that message to the public when you, as their advocate, know they’re worth so much more?
Author’s Note: If you’re looking for some additional photography tips check out a guest post I did for Rescue Rambles here: Picture Perfect (also, check out the rest of the page and the FB, there is TONS of good information on marketing, photography, promos, adoptions, sheltering, grants and much, much more)