A symphony in black and white is the centrepiece of Balan Madhavan's show, ‘Songs of Silence' on at Durbar Hall Art Gallery. “I have just made the photo black and white, that's all. I DO NOT use Photoshop,” says Balan, answering the curious viewers' quizzical doubts, as to whether Photoshop has come to his aid, in all these photographs on canvas. The 51 limited edition prints on display are priced moderately, with his favourite, (he calls it Tableau) at Rs. 18,000. The others are priced anywhere between Rs.3, 000 and Rs.10,000.
Balan took to photography way back in 1987, quitting a bank job and listening to his heart's call. His father being a DFO was perhaps the inspiration, for wildlife and nature are Balan's life.
After all these years of proving his mettle, (he is the only Indian in the International League of Conservation Photographers) Balan has turned to conservation, heart and soul, as ‘my occasional commercial projects will take care of my needs'. Balan is also an Associate of Royal Photographic Society (ARPS), England and the winner of the United Nations (UNEP) photography Award, 1992.
Animals in motion
The animals and nature in the photos are all not under ‘normal' situations. You see a monkey in mid air, in the process of jumping from one precipice to the other, a squirrel in almost a similar predicament and ‘Vampires', bats in motion.
“This was taken in Mexico, where I had gone for a seminar. There was this huge well and from under the well, there were passages underground, where the bats dwelt. At night they would come out, and my God, it was a sight to see millions of bats flying. I was drenched in bat urine, photographing them. The stench lasts for a few days,” he says, narrating that unforgettable experience. A lone bison in Yellowstone National Park, US, surveying a tornado about to break out, is another photo you will remember, as also the ring of fire around Anamudi. “I chanced to get this photo as I was passing that way. The flames were ten ft high, and spread over the entire stretch,” he remembered. The elephants in various poses, lone ones and in groups as also those of the fiercer animals like the lion, eating its prey form the show. Limited editions? “Yes, I will sell only the predetermined number, marked, say 1/20, 2/20 etc.
Photos from the Western Ghats, Mexico, US, Himalayas and South Africa (Yes, when he went to see the World Cup!) adorn the walls.
The Madhavan Pillai Foundation which he started in his father's name is doing its mite for wildlife conservation. “We give an award, Madhavan Pillai Conservation Award, annually to the unsung people like field workers who are dedicated and are most knowledgeable about these places and guide others. We give the amount to them as a pension fund so that it benefits them. This time it has been hiked to Rs. 1 lakh,” he says. His is photography with a purpose, he feels.
Balan is pained that Munnar, which he helped propagate as a tourist destination, in his early years, through photographs he took for the Tourism Department, should be blatantly polluted by overzealous and greedy commercialisation. “I was born in Munnar. Why do people come to Kerala? To see the natural beauty. They don't come to shop. So it is pertinent that we keep the beauty intact if we want to promote tourism. The number of beds must be limited in Munnar, if we want to retain its charm. My next project will be Munnar, to assess its carrying capacity,” says Balan. If any school wants to know more about conservation, it can contact the foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org) which will make a presentation and interact with the children on conservation. The show will be on till September 7.