An opportunity to view extraordinary black and white photographs of wildlife photographers M. Krishnan and T.N.A. Perumal

A portrait of wildlife photographer M. Krishnan is flanked by that of a tusker and a gaur. “I have given him the company of two of his favourite animals,” smiles the renowned photographer T.N.A. Perumal.

“He knew so much about elephants,” says Perumal pointing to the photograph of the tusker taken by Krishnan at Jaldapara, West Bengal. It is on display at the Wildlife Photography Exhibition at PSG Institute of Management. “The elephant had killed people and the forest officials were prepared to shoot the animal. Krishnan went with them, stood face-to-face with the animal, took the photograph and saved it,” he recounts.

Perumal's introduction to M. Krishnan was through the latter's column ‘Vanavilangukal' on birds and animals in the Kalaimagal magazine. “A self-taught man, Krishnan is the first to write about animal behaviour. “Krishnan said animals communicated through the ground with the herd. Once they get the message they start moving. Scientists at National Geographic Channel have confirmed this infrasonic communication now,” he adds.

A herd of elephants drinking water, bathing and a baby elephant are all a part of the eclectic line up.

Do you see the fire in the eye, asks Perumal of the angry tigress taken at Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Her dilated pupil indicates the mood. It is the eye again that catches your attention in the picture of a bull gaur at night. Perumal remembers assisting M. Krishnan (who processed films in the field) in processing films at Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary in Mysore.

There are photographs of a herd of gaur in Thekkady, Nilgai Bull, Indian antelope (black buck) and Nilgiri Tahr. The Barasingha, a sambar stag looking on suspiciously and a happy family of bonnet monkeys convey a lot. There is a stunning image of sambar deer and fawn (Krishnan wanted to call it sambar & son, smiles Perumal).

Krishnan rode the elephants without any mahout and took photographs. He fabricated the ‘The Elephant Gun', a light weight camera with smooth shutter speed, to click photographs of elephants and birds in flight.

“Wildlife should be photographed in their habitat, living its natural life and mingling with other species,” says Perumal. His ‘Peacock in mist' captures the beauty of the ambience. Perumal's photographs attempt to communicate animal behaviour — a tigress invites its cub to join the swim, elephants spar and the Nilgiri Tahr look playful. “This tiger was a gentleman and he turned around and looked at me,” says Perumal about the photograph he shot one morning at eight. He has also photographed a tusker in Bandipur that charged him. “Luckily, he put on his brakes as there was a trench and I got the picture,” he says.

Photographs of cattle egrets, a little egret landing, median egret taking off, fill the frame beautifully. “It is about instant visualisation and not about pre-conceived ideas,” he says. His photograph of the white ibis in a lotus pond is one such instant composition. A non-swimmer, Perumal waded into the sea in Mumbai to capture the picture of sea gull. “This is the madness of photographers,” he laughs.

Light, subject and opportunity matters in photography. An Indian hoopoe chick waits for its mother that is in flight. It's a diurnal (daylight) bird and care has been taken to convey that aspect in the picture. The photographic technique beautifully captures the symmetry of a heron taking off, a smiling tusker and a picture of a male and female chital (for which he waited patiently). “In wildlife photography, animals do eventually oblige. The longer you stay inside the forest more are the opportunities. You need to follow ethics. The welfare of the subject is more important.” Perumal says: “To pursue wildlife photography, one should get to know the animal and its behaviour. But, most of all, “you should know when to stop”. The exhibition organised by Tamil Nadu Green Movement as part of M. Krishnan Memorial Lecture is open today till 7.30 p.m. Entry is free.

Photo diary

M. Krishnan's column “The Country Notebook” ran in The Statesman for a record 46 years without a break. He did illustrations for his columns and later provided his photographs.

Experts hold that his research on “Ecological survey of the mammals of Peninsular India — Indian wildlife (1959 to 1970s)“ has few equals.

Krishnan was known for his straight talk when it came to fauna and flora

He was a member of steering committee of Project Tiger