The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty
Since The Bigger Picture began in early 2009, I’ve written a number of posts about what might be called camera traps, situations where cameras are installed to collect evidence of one kind of unusual or unwanted behavior or another. Red light cameras are a controversial example; across the country and on an almost daily basis, local municipalities and motorists argue about whether roadside-mounted video camera should be employed primarily for public safety, surveillance or economic reasons. And while people may decry the big-brotherish spread of surveillance cameras, mounted in the name of national security all around the world, these camera traps do sometimes provide essential information about the comings and goings of terrorists, as security expert Bruce Hoffman explained to us in his piece for our project, click! photography changes everything.
About a week or so ago, though, I came across a report about a camera trap of a different kind that—and sorry for the pun, in advance—literally stopped me in my tracks. It turns out that wildlife biologists and conservationists (including Smithsonian scientists) routinely set up laser-riggered, remote-control camera traps to study the incidence and behaviors of hard-to-track species in inaccessible locales around the world. In a June 8th post for his Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin described an unusual discovery made by Wildlife Conservation Society biologists at work in Central America. While scientists had been experimenting with the use of various perfumes and colognes as animal attractants since 2003, in this specific instance it turns out that Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men hit the olfactory hot-spot for jaguars slinking through the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. Here’s an amazing video that confirms that fact:
You might want to turn your attention to two other remarkable videos that show Obsession For Men’s startling impact on mammals of the human variety. The first is one of the original 1980s television commercials that introduced the scent and, in retrospect, looks hilarious and reeks of period pretentiousness. The second and more contemporary video, a contemporary son’s lament about his father’s stubborn attachment to the Calvin Klein scent only underscores the fact that there’s no accounting for what brings out the animal in each of us.