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What's the point of wildlife photography?

33 species of mammal have gone extinct since Australia's European colonisation. Swathes of grasslands, forests, and waterways have been covered with concrete. Invasive species have spread to almost every corner of the continent.


The last survivors of some of our most charismatic creatures, like the Pig-footed Bandicoot, were literally eaten when found by researchers.


Pig-footed Bandicoot via The Australian Museum

Would a photograph have made any difference at all?


No. Probably not. A photograph cannot stop a bulldozer, ward off hungry feral cats (or hungry researchers), or turn into an old-growth tree.


But that's not really what photographs are for. They exist to tell a story. They exist to give nature a voice in the human thought-bubble that has consumed our planet since the beginning of the Anthropocene.


For me, photography is the antidote to shifting baseline syndrome. This is best described as "the gradual change of accepted environmental norms" - and it usually occurs over generations.


What was once thriving Cumberland Plain Woodland in your grandparent's day, is now a nightmarish concrete-scape of townhouses in Western Sydney. But to you, it's always been that way. The forest, along with all its wildlife, died out quietly, over the course of many years. Without knowing what it was like in the past - we simply accept its current, ecologically barren state as "normal".


In reality; it's unacceptable.


Cumberland Plain Woodland via NSW National Parks

For an eternity, Indigenous Australians passed down this sort of information to new generations. Close, spiritual links with the landscape meant that it could be managed closely, cared for, and properly maintained. In these circumstances, wildlife, people, and culture flourish.


Modern Australia, by contrast, is plagued with environmental ignorance. The baseline is shifting all around us. Whilst the urban sprawl continues to accelerate into cherished natural areas, and once common species continue to fade into extinction - the bulk of our population is none the wiser.


Did you know that Eastern Quolls (a fierce native carnivore, covered in white spots) were common in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs as recently as 1960? They're extinct on the mainland now.


Eastern Quoll via The Guardian

When the last Eastern Quoll died, there were no trumpets that sounded. There were no headlines. There were no Hunger-Games-eqsue canons that shot out above Vaucluse. The last Eastern Quoll died quietly, and slipped away into the sands of time.


Without knowledge of the past - the same fate is set for many more native species.


Photographs and videos of our natural world cannot stop bulldozers, or feral cats, or diseases. But they can change hearts. They can document the baseline as it shifts, and be a vessel for knowledge to be passed down through generations.


Without David Attenborough - would you have cared or known about the plight of chimpanzees?

Bindi & Steve Irwin via @bindisueirwin on Instagram

Without Steve Irwin - would you have known that Australian wildlife could be so charismatic?


I certainly wouldn't have.


Wildlife and conservation photography tells a story. It helps form a connection between modern humanity and the wild world that we live in.


The more we know and understand about our world, the more we can begin to care for it, and consider how our actions impact the non-humans that we live alongside.


Wombat-filled place via Me

When I photograph wombat-filled places on the edge of Yengo and Wollemi National Parks, I feel as though I'm creating a time capsule. A little note in a bottle that says "this place is natural, full of life, and sacred. Don't ever let it change."


Photography is my antidote to the shifting baseline. I hope it can be yours too.


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