In the southern Caribbean Sea, facing the coasts of Venezuela, there is an island that is part of the Netherlands Antilles, and that takes the name of Curaçao.
In Curaçao lives and works the veterinary Odette Doest, cousin of the young Dutch photographer Jasper Doest, known for his wildlife photographs taken with a realistic narrative documentary approach. Odette asks Jasper to give her some of his photos depicting polar bears, foxes and seals, to decorate the walls of the veterinary studio’s waiting room. Polar bears in the Caribbean, she must have found it very funny!
Jasper, always involved in photographic projects aimed at restoring and strengthening the bond between man and nature, instead, believes that it would be more appropriate to photograph the fauna of the island, in order to raise awareness and deepen the knowledge of native animals in the local population. The idea is enthusiastically accepted by his cousin, who, years before, had founded the Fundashon Dier en Onderwijs Cariben (FDOC), a charitable association aimed at school education and species conservation. From this nice anecdote comes one of the most touching photographic works of wildlife in recent years: Meet Bob.
Bob is a flamingo, obviously he is beautiful, and, on a tragic day, he flies by mistake straight against the glass of a hotel (flying birds have difficulty understanding that they are facing a transparent surface) and gets seriously injured. Bob is taken to to Odette Doest’s veterinary office, and his cousin Jasper can tell his story.
Meet Bob is the visual tale of an encounter, a rehabilitation, of the love that man must place in the care of any animal which is sick or in need. Bob gets treated and gets to live among humans for a long time because, despite having been saved, he is no longer able to survive in the wild.
Bob has become a symbol. In the photographs we see the splendid creature in front of the snack machine, or in the bathroom of the house where he lives, we see him in the operation theatre, surrounded by dozens of scissors during surgery, we follow him while he walks with Odette on the beach, or posing as the ultimate star, in front of the curious looks of school children. It is very important for Doest to underline with his images how human beings and animals need to live together on the planet, in respect and in harmony, without prevarication, towards a shared future.
Bob also wishes us a Merry Christmas among glittering festoons and sparkling garlands. He is a dear, sweet pink friend, with feathers and arched beak, who has become the perfect ambassador of environmental protection. He lives with men but takes a bath in a saltwater pool with other flamingos, because it is only right that, during his day, he gets to live at least a little like a wild flamingo. All this is a metaphor for the creation of a balance, a process that tests man in a constant commitment. But such is the challenge that the photographer tells with great determination, suggesting that it must be won at all costs.
With this work Jasper Doest has won two awards in the last edition of the World Press Photo, which will be on display, as every year in Lucca, during the biennial of photography Photolux Festival 2019, scheduled from November 16th to December 8th. The author had already become known in 2018 winning, again in the Nature section, a WPP award, with a delicate and poignant work, Sacred No More, on the Japanese macaque, better known as snow monkey, a protected species but disliked by population and used, from ancient times, in entertainment shows.
Jasper Doest is also a contributor to National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine and GEO and is a famous and very popular Instagramer. With about sixty thousand followers, in the initial statement of his In-stagram account he declares: “Giving a voice to nonhuman lives while trying to bridge the gap between the natural world and ourselves”. Each of his photographs actually tries to embody this intent.
My advice is to follow Jasper Doest on Instagram: instagram.com/jasperdoest and on the site: jasperdoest.com; he will offer you reflections, amazement, emotions, extraordinary stories about those who share with us, and much better than us, this infinitesimal part of the universe.
July 9, 2019