oday’s the day I sell out by posting a photo of cute animals. But what do you feel when you see the above photo?
It was taken a million miles from nowhere, in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
We were heading to the airstrip to fly out that day. Our trip was supposed to be completed, we were supposed to be heading home, when we stumbled across this scene. The back-story for this photo is covered in my “Behind the Images” PDF. If you are reading this email, you probably already read that story.
But why does this image connect with people? Because it’s cute? Three baby cheetahs, backlit, hanging on a branch– what could be cuter than that?
What if I were to tell you that just a few days before I took this image we came across another cheetah, not much older than these three, feasting on a baby gazelle, its face all covered in blood. There wasn’t much cute about the baby cheetah that day.
What if I were to further tell you that it’s unlikely that all three of these animals are still alive today, because of the harsh realities of the African savanna.
For me, this image raises a complex set of emotions. Struggle. Despair. Hope. Loneliness. Impending death (either the cheetah’s or its prey). Fragility. Vibrancy. Joy. And the sorrow that undoubtedly occurred when mamma cheetah discovered the death of one (or more) of these three.
An image is successful when it evokes a broad spectrum of feelings. It’s that richness and intensity of feeling that makes us want to look.
Anyway, that’s what we’d say if we play the academic, if we become the photo critic, if we over-analyze.
For this image, at least for the moment, I’m happy to settle for cute.
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