The devil lies in the details in M. Krishnan’s photographs

What makes his photographs remarkable is the lack of drama. In all his wildlife photographs, one is able to really see the animal, the glistening fur and the powerful sinews of the tiger or the sheer size and weight of an elephant, and his photographic ethic is just as clear.

Working with his own camera, writer, naturalist and photographer M. Krishnan shot only in black and white.

On the occasion of his birth centenary, the Alliance Française is hosting an exhibition of his wildlife photography.

Known as an ecological patriot, Krishnan spoke out against the introduction of exotic plant species to India. He never went abroad in all his life and took much of his photographs in the forests of southern India. The exhibition showcases a part of his collection. Being a naturalist, he was able to get close to the animal and capture it at its natural best.

The current exhibition has on display his photographs of elephants, gaur, tigers, monkeys, rhinoceros, crocodiles.

He captures different species of elephants: tuskers, cow elephants, Makhna elephants as they are crossing streams, walking over large fallen trunks, sparring, or with raised trunks. He also captures the more exotic species: the Indian giant squirrel poised on a tree trunk, suckling gaur, monitor lizards scanning their environs or a flying squirrel in mid-flight amongst dry branches set against a dazzling white background.

Birds are not missed out: whether it is a row of spoonbills at Ranganathittu, a crested hawk eagle on a branch, a pair of painted storks, a gliding egret or a snake bird (Darter) in exquisite clarity.

His photography is memorable for its unpretentious style, its clarity and its depth of observation, much like his writing.

One is able to appreciate the droplets of water spouting from the elephant’s trunk, the scale-like feathers of the darter bird or the roughness of the rhino’s hide, all done with his home-made contraption.

His skill comes from his deep love and connection to nature. He also wrote extensively on nature, sometimes publishing with his own illustrations (he was also skilled in sketching).

He was also well-known for his bi-weekly column “Country Notebook” in The Statesman, which ran from 1950 till the day of his death on February 18, 1996. The exhibition is on till July 8, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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