2016 / Nature / Pets

Wolves and Vultures

  • Photographer
    Andrew McGibbon

I am acutely aware that as humans we are the only species to become aware of the world we live in - we don’t view nature as something abstract or removed from humanity but rather, it is through our eyes and minds that nature fully exists. We are both participators and spectators in the natural world, beholders of its beauty and agents of its destruction.Familiarity breeds contempt says the old adage, and in the age of the internet there are very few of us in the developed world that have not seen many many images and videos of wildlife - it’s become so familiar and yet at the same time so removed. You may have seen a jaguar attack and kill a caiman from the comfort of your fibre optic connected home, but have you ever seen a jaguar?It seems that the more we know of the world the less caring we become of our home. The more we connect to the internet, the more disconnected we become to the natural world that has cared for us for so long.As I write this, I am awaiting the results from a deep ancestry test that I had done through the Genographic project. It’s going to tell me where my ancestors traveled, where they split to form different groups and what percentages of the different human DNA strings make up me. I am in effect the genetic portrait of all my ancestors. Parts of them are in me and within my DNA lies some memory. This genetic memory leads me to yearn for the wild, for the hunt, for the fight. I yearn for adventure and I know that you do to. It’s in us all because we all have the same origins.I believe that the disillusionment of the 21st century that seems to plague so many of us Homo Sapiens comes for the fact that we have become so removed for what we have always known. Nature. The WildI can imagine two ever-present traveling companions my ancestors had as they traveled the plains, traversed the mountains and explored the forests - The wolf and the vulture.For such a long time wolves, along with our cousins the Neanderthals, were in direct competition with humans as apex predators. They would have been on our minds every day, stories would have been passed on from generation to generation about close encounters and conquests. Yet at some point, it seems that the wolf became our ally. According to Professor Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University “At that time, modern humans, Neanderthals and wolves were all top predators and competed to kill mammoths and other huge herbivores. But then we formed an alliance with the wolf and that would have been the end for the Neanderthal.” Her main emphasis seems to be on the success of modern humans over Neanderthal but there is also the amazing idea that this could be the beginning of man's best friendship with the dog. Remember, the scientific name for wolf is Canis Lupis and for the domesticated dog it’s Canis familiaris! Dogs descend from wolves. They have been around us and part of us for a lot longer than we think. Again, there is most likely a genetic memory at play in the way dogs and humans respond so emotionally toward each other.Besides the domestication of the wolf that led to the development of the dog, there would have been untamed rival wolf packs everywhere our fathers went. It must have been wild! Kill or be killed, hide and seek, outsmart or overpower, every day for everyone. We were involved, we were deeply connected.Similarly, the vulture would have been an ever present figure in our ancient landscape. Providing critical services to the ecosystem, they were as they are today the ones cleaning up after the hunts of man and beast - circling would have been seen from miles away - a constant reminder that death was around the corner.Both wolves and vultures were ever present and they both carried with them myth and mystery. Today we feel fear toward the wolf and revile at the idea of vultures. We fail to see them as part of us, aesthetically magnificent and functionally beautiful.My aim in all my animal work is to create new and fresh appreciations for these creatures, to highlight our inter-connectedness and to challenge long held beliefs or ideas that hinder or prevent true conservation. These images were created in front of an audience. All the colour and smoke you see was actually there and has not been added afterwards. For me, the creation process is just as important as the finished product and by inviting people in to witness the art and to meet the animals, I am reinforcing the ideas that I am trying to get across.Let’s celebrate the natural world, cherish it and work for it. Don’t sit by and watch people ruin the environment - tell them of its beauty, show them it’s glory. And for yourself, get out of the city, build a fire, climb a mountain. Rekindle your intrinsic connection with the biosphere.We are wild. We are nature.

Andrew McGibbon is a photographer based in London. He specialises in photographing animals with flash.