The question “Where did you take this photograph?” is one which I receive quite often at gallery nrc with pieces of work shown during the Denver Art Walk each month. During First Friday in May one image which received a lot of questions is the following photograph from Rainbow Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The first question I received was “Were you in an airplane?”, or “How far did you hike to get that image?”. My response was always, I was at Rainbow Curve just off of Trail Ridge Road instead of a story which I could have made up to stretch the truth. For those of you not familiar with Rainbow Curve, it is the pull off just above treeline on the eastern side of the park and included at the location are restrooms and enough parking for maybe 20 or 30 cars. To me the location doesn’t matter, but it is about the story the image tells. When this image was taken I was heading up the road towards Bear Lake and about 1/3 of the way up decided to backtrack and head to Trail Ridge Road. Just prior to hitting treeline I popped out of the clouds and was treated with the following scene. As I chatted with a few people prior to sunrise who stopped as well, I told them to wait 10 minutes or so since sunrise was right about to happen.
I bring up the question of where did you take this image as I was at the Downtown Denver Art Festival this past weekend, and noticed a photograph which looked like a familiar location. I inquired about the photo of the mountain lion and was told a story which didn’t seem to sound right as the background was in some of the images I have of mountain lions taken at a place in Montana which caters towards video and still photographers. Using a “game farm” allows the safety of both the photographer as well as the animals since you are not tracking animals in the wild which could put an animal in harms way. I did some research prior to selecting this place to see the photographers using it and why it makes sense to get photographs in this manner. So the story I was told by the photographer at the arts festival was that he hired a guide outside of Glacier National Park who knew there was a mountain lion in the area but it still took a great deal of time to get this image. I could have asked more questions to the photographer about specifics about this but decided to take the high road and let him get back to his booth and his story for other patrons. Upon getting home I confirmed the location based on past images of mine, in addition to asking another photographer who has been there during the winter.
But I am wondering, does the story he is sharing with people help sell the image? Would you buy the image based on the story of him being in the wild finding the animal or is it just the image itself which would draw you to purchase the photograph? If you bought the image based on the story, and later found out the truth how would you feel? To me deceiving the buyer doesn’t make any sense as a photographer and a business person as the truth will come to light at some point which not only hurts your reputation but those of all photographers. A photograph tells the story, but maybe in this case the story needs to tell the story to sell the image.