#ThursdayThoughts: Photos Tell a Story - Any Story!
I want to discuss something that is very important to us, and that is the power of social media in animal rescue, both good and bad. Social media has made it easy to share animal neglect, and has done some very amazing things in cases of neglect. At the same time, it can be manipulated and used to paint just about any picture you want to paint.
Take a few minutes and look at this collage of our Tahni. Tahni is a 3 year old Quarter Horse type gelding who has been in our rescue for over a year now. A quick glance might assume that these are "before" and "after" pictures. However, these four pictures were taken within five minutes of each other.
If I only shared the first one, you'd think what a healthy, almost fat boy. The thing about the first one is when we were going through them, we didn't recognize Tahni. In fact, one person mentioned we should probably get "her" pregnancy checked, assuming it was one of the mustangs, likely Eliana.
And then, if I only shared the tall one, I could easily paint the picture of a neglected horse, in need of feed. He's not in horrid shape, but he sure doesn't look like the first picture.
So, which is accurate? The two smaller ones on the left are probably closest to the Tahni we see regularly. But they are all just snaps of a horse in a moment. Angles, lenses, lighting, movement, stretching, breathing, backgrounds, all sorts of things determine how an animal looks in a photo ... and even a nice, healthy horse can look extreme depending on all of the above. Think of selfies vs. tagged photos. There's a reason that women have the "selfie angle" with the camera above them and looking up - it makes you look thin.
This is why, when contacted about neglect cases online, we always seek out eye witnesses. It's why law enforcement requires eye witnesses - people who have seen the animal - to do the reporting and get so frustrated with being inundated with calls from people who have seen a photo. Some things are indisputable, some things can't be explained away, and sometimes true neglect happens. Sometimes, like poor Tahni above, a bad angle or a strange moment in time can make him look entirely different from one moment to the next.
And it's why we demand facts and evidence, and try not to get drawn into the drama and speculation that runs rampant online. It's why we say come on out, why we post so many photos from different days, and different times, and encourage our visitors to share lots and lots of photos. It's why our horses go out in public and are seen.
To be clear - I'm not saying don't take photographs and ignore neglect. But the best attitude to have is to seek the truth and verify everything you see. And remember, even the most honest of us will present ourselves in the best light. Under normal circumstances, the ribby pictures of Tahni would not be posted. What a picture like that does is make us stop and evaluate him and see if he needs more feed, if all photos are showing the same thing. However, I also can't in good faith post the obese photo of him, since he was nearly unrecognizable. We see a glimpse of the gorgeous horse he'll be in that one, but right now, Tahni is a pretty normal growing three year old and definitely not as bulky as that photo makes him look.
I guess, I just thought this was a good example to talk about something I think more people should take to heart.