When I first started photographing, I did it for the sheer joy of being in the jungle and the gratification of reliving the moments after getting back home. To be honest there was some kick in having your photograph up on the internet and having people look at it, comment on it. The recognition was also sub-conisously driving me to produce more content. But intrinsically it was some sort of selfish joy all through. And over time the interest in observing animals and their habitat increased. My curiosity made me more a naturalist than a photographer.
(Pic courtesy: Amit Rawal)
If you do anything for a longer period of time, the question of why you are doing what you are doing strikes prominently at some point. And of-course it did. That’s when I slowly started thinking about the larger picture and what I wanted to do.
We all agree that awareness is the key to a better planet, and as photographers we try to bring about a real picture of our world. But all through, one thing that bothered me was that the content I was publishing was mostly for people who are interested in it and more importantly people who had access. And at this point I started thinking about how to take the story to a new audience.
I identified two sets of people. One who did not have access to mass media and internet and the other which wasn’t interested in wildlife content and documentaries in the serious or academic form. This is when I started my work with CEE (Center for Environment and Education) and addressed the first issue. We did a lot of work with the forest department in wildlife reserves and nearby villages, setting up interpretation centres and teaching photography to folks from the forest dept. were a few of those initiatives.
With CEE and MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) one of the most fulfilling projects I worked with was the Science Express. This train, a mobile exhibition of bio-diversity hotspots of India toured across the country, showcasing Western Ghats among other hotspots through photographs to people all over India. Children from local schools and people who might not have ever known of the existence of western ghats could finally see and partly get an idea of the natural wealth we have. Over 2 million people have over a year seen this mobile exhibition.
While these are projects I continue to do, I now wanted to focus on the second problem. Taking the content to mass media in a not-so-serious way. The though was to take the content to people in ways that they are already comfortable with and like. Music was one such medium. With the launch of Karnataka Anthem, which was broadcasted over 6 kannada channels and got a viewership of more than 2 million, we were able to showcase our rich bio-diversity to people across Karnataka in their local channels through an Anthem, in the hope that they will remember the natural wealth every time they hum the song. The most common response we heard was that people wouldn’t believe that all the animals show on the video were found in Karnataka!
This was the essence of the article in Education times today. Working on a very interesting project on the same lines. Watch this space for more soon!