Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Is Shark Porn a Recent Fad?

Here's a great video recently published of a shark subject heavy conference occurred at the California Academy of Sciences. A number of speakers cover a variety of subjects from shark attacks, to the politics of protective legislation, to the role sharks play in coral reefs. You can see the video here on web conference channel FORA.tv.

One part of the conference that I found interesting was where Juliet Eilperin talks about the celebrated painting Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley. I am not going to add my own overview of the ins and outs of the painting as you can read a full breakdown of events here, but what is interesting is that the painting was commissioned by the victim himself, and helped him further his career as a politician. Watson became the Lord Mayor of London between 1796-97.

So, long before The Sun newspaper got to dream up such killer headlines as Der-Dum Der-Dum (come on Sun you can do better) when someone saw a basking shark off the Cornish coast, the modern artists of the day back in the 18th Century were already at it. The public loved it too, and the painting propelled Copley to wider recognition, particularly in the UK. Less can be said for Watson, whose political enemies regularly commented that a wooden head would have served him better than the wooden leg left him by the shark.

Disclaimer: Shark Porn, for those who don't know it, is a derogatory term used by the conservation movement to refer to the poor level of media coverage ascribed to the subject of sharks, usually resulting in poor quality coverage of shark attacks and high drama, rather than informative biology or conservation based documentary. It is not my attempt at using porn as a keyword to get more hits ;)