Thursday, December 17, 2009

photography and storytelling...

I am tired of hearing all the time the good old saying..."a good photograph has to tell a story" or the even older "a picture speaks more than a thousand words". my question is why?

in the good old days photography was limited to a few genres. portraiture, photojournalism, family photographs (births, deaths, holidays…), commercial etc. i agree all these need to tell a compelling story to catch the eye of the viewer. henri cartier-bresson’s photographs or raghu rai's famous photograph of a dead half buried baby in the Bhopal gas tragedy both told a story as well as spoke much more than a thousand words.

but today, photography has moved on. it transcends the old perspective of photography as just a medium to catch a moment in time. yes it does capture a moment in time but does it have to tell a story? my contention is that a new genre of photography is emerging into the limelight (it has existed for quite some time now) – photography as creative art form. here the photographer uses the camera like a tool as much like a painter uses his brush and canvas and creates an art form. as with all art forms, a creative photograph is supposed to evoke emotions not tell any stories. a hussain or a da vinci painting doesn’t say any stories nor does it speak more than a thousand words. yet it invokes strong emotions in the viewer. so why does a photograph have to be any different – just because photojournalists ruled the roost for so long? or is it because photography is still not considered an art form?
to me photography is an art form – an expression of my creative mind’s eye as I see my subject – in my case nature. i try and see beyond the obvious to document the unseen so to speak. It is to bring out the beauty of nature in a different perspective – the way my mind’s eye sees it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

luck and the wildlife photographer

of all genres of photography, wildlife photography is one which gets your adrenaline pumping! however, my learning in the past five odd years that i have been doing wildlife, is that a good photograph hinges on two things - patience (and loads of it) and luck. and both these are critical for a single reason... neither the light (which to me is the most important element) nor my subject is in any mood to listen to me. at the right moment, the sun goes behind a cloud and i lose the chance to get that great photograph or that beautiful tigress refuses to come out from under the shade of the tree so that i can capture her beauty in all its glory!!!

patience is obvious, especially in bird photography. you need to wait for the right moment to get that great shot. recently i was in kenya shooting wildlife. in the evening, my guide spotted a leopard on a tree with an antelope kill. i spent the next two and a half hours rooted to the same spot with my camera on the leopard following his every move. unfortunately the light started fading and so i gave up but next morning at 5.00 i was back to the same spot and lo and behold, the leopard and the kill were still exactly where i left them the day before. i spent the next three hours waiting for the early morning light to light up the leopard and my patience paid off.

but how luck plays a role was driven home by another incident in the same trip. i was driving along in this park called tsavo east and i spotted at tawny eagle perched on a low branch. i of course stopped and took a few photographs and then settled down to wait for the eagle to fly so that i could get a better shot. after about half an hour the eagle obliged me by taking off and flying to the branch of another nearby tree. i was thrilled that i got a good shot and was lowering my "bazooka" lens when my eye caught a movement under the tree on which the eagle had just settled down. a closer look and "wow" it was a cheetah sitting and finishing off his kill. i then realized the the eagle was waiting for the remains. the beauty was that the cheetah was less that 15 feet from my vehicle and none of us had noticed the cheetah for over half an hour since all our attention was on the eagle. it was pure luck that the eagle flew to the tree and drew my attention to the cheetah below.

much like fishing guys and their big catch that got away, wildlife photographers also love telling stories about their exploits. but as i listen to them all, it strikes me time and again that all you need is a lot of luck and loads of patience to get great wildlife shots!!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

conservation is for "conservationists"

the popular thought seems to be that conservation is the "job" of the conservationists, much like treating people is for doctors and arguing law is for lawyers!! while the latter two are specialized areas and probably can be done only after much study and training, conservation is everyone's "job". if only the handful of people in epa, wwf etc at an international level and a few others at the domestic level are going to go around conserving nature, it is not going to get us very far, especially when the billions of the rest of us try very hard to thwart whatever these few are trying to achieve.

reiterating that we are fast hurling towards a bleak future is meaningless...all of us at one level or the other is aware of that. the statistics stare at our face everyday. estimates vary but we make extinct everyday something between 35 to 150 species. what is even more worrying and scary is this range - we don't even know exactly how may species are vanishing everyday!!! even at the lower estimate, that is one hell of a extinction plan that we have adopted (we would make Adolf Hitler proud). in fact we can be "proud" of the fact that we as a species have managed to do in the last couple of centuries what nature, comet strikes etc. etc (and that includes the dinosaur extinction as well) couldn't do over many millions of years. how this wonderful ways of ours will affect our children and theirs is anyones guess. from custodians of this nature, keeping it in trust for the future generations, we have moved into the role of tyrants - take what you want, when you want at any cost and damn the rest!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

national geographic (nat geo) solo exhibition

this is especially for those of you who are going to be in singapore or passing through singapore from 3/april till 24/may 2009.

national geographic (natgeo) is hosting my solo exhibition at their gallery attached to their store there.

post this, in the latter half of this year, this exhibition may also be moving to their gallery in london. we are also discussing the possibility of exhibiting some of my water photographs (water is one of my favorite themes) in their london gallery during the water week from june 22 to 26th (though I still trying to figure out what is "water week"!!!)

as a nature photographer, i am thrilled at this recognition from the ultimate in nature photography. Do drop in if you are in Singapore during this time and buy the pictures for a worthy cause!!

The address is #01-19 VivoCity, 1 Harbour Front Walk. Singapore.

The site is

bringing awareness

there are many ways to bring about awareness about nature degradation and the urgent need for is to highlight the damage done by man in his quest for a "better life" by degrading and ravaging nature - the stick approach, scaring everybody to believing in the need for conservation. the second is to highlight the beauty around us and getting people to see what they would lose if we continue the way we do for some more years - the carrot approach, getting everybody to appreciate the beauty and hence the need to conserve.

i, of course belong to the latter category...hopefully when someone sees the beauty of nature in my photographs, they would be tempted to go back to their roots, take time off from their busy schedules and not look but "see" what is around us and more importantly what we are losing around us!