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Eye for the small

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Interview Kalyan Varma feels wildlife consists of smaller fascinating creatures

Kalyan Varma’s photography combines scientific perspective with artistic sensibility. It is difficult to strictly classify Kalyan as a wildlife photographer and filmmaker for his works address larger ecological issues. “I am a wildlife enthusiast first and then a photographer,” he explains.

Over the last five years, since he quit his job as a software engineer to pursue photography, Kalyan has built up a solid body of work, which chronicles the furthest reaches of India’s forests, plateaus and grasslands. The BBC Earth Explorer, whose works have been featured in international publications, including GEO , Smithsonian and Lonely Planet , is critical of the hype that surrounds the Save the Tiger campaign. “Tigers and lions are overrated. Wildlife has a lot more to offer,” says the award-winning photographer.

Indeed, Kalyan has photographed creatures big and small, some of which we hardly have any knowledge about. In his photo essay Shadows On The Grass on India’s grasslands, for example, Kalyan has captured a stunning close-up of jumping ants. Blood red in colour with bulging eyes, the jumping ant, Kalyan informs, is the only ant that forages alone. “It is so named because this primitive ant can jump. In a day, they travel up to 20 or 30 mt. Trees serve as visual signs enabling them to find their way to-and-fro from their den. They use the sun for navigation. Once the sun begins to set, they move.” This has never been documented before.

For Kalyan, good photography is not about taking a picture packed with action, but a series of images arranged as a narrative that “provides a complete perspective on a particular issue.”

Kalyan says that he loves to photograph primates, elephants and dolphins. “They are very intelligent creatures. You can never tire of observing them. Some of them display human-like behaviour.”

His fascinating close-ups of animals, from blackbucks to wildebeests, make one wonder at Kalyan’s approach to capturing them. He says simply that the secret lies in “knowing the animal, respecting its space and spending enough time with it.”

Conservation, to Kalyan is a process. “I am often asked where I see myself five years hence, to which my answer is that through my photographs I want to spread awareness.” He works intensely on conservation issues in areas such as B.R. Hills in Karnataka and Anamalai Hills in the Western Ghats.

SRAVASTI DATTA

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