A tweet that surfaced in March about swans reappearing in Venetian canals made hearts rejoice worldwide. Temporarily displacing stories of corona gloom and doom, the original post credited clearer water to fewer tourists. Mother Nature was cleaning up the canals! The post went viral. However, Natasha Daly from nationalgeographic.com took issue with the tweet, reporting that swans have always glided along the waterways of Burano, the island near Venice known for lace-making. She took the original tweeter to task in “Fake animal news abounds on social media as corona virus upends life: Bogus stories of wild animals flourishing in quarantined cities gives false hope– and viral fame.”
This beautiful photograph by Montauk photographer Ray Smith (1905-2004) makes it easy to believe that a tweet about swans could go viral. In the 1970s, the byline “Ray Smith” routinely appeared in the East Hampton Star under pictures documenting Montauk Chamber of Commerce events, church suppers, and Greenery Scenery committee meetings. Although Smith’s career had been launched at glamorous fashion shoots in New York City, he embraced the chronicling of a simpler life for East End papers when he moved to Montauk.
The tonal pictorialism of Swan Family underscores Ray Smith’s belief that his best work was done in the category of nature photography. His camera captured the essence of these elegant, graceful creatures, known for fiercely protecting their young. The tweeter refused to delete her post, saying her message served the greater good.