KOCHI: This is a priest with a difference. Umesh Kesav Namboothiri, the chief priest of Annapoorneswari temple in Thodupuzha, is devoted to his religious calling and is equally passionate about photography. Once in a while, he takes a break from his religious duties to set out for scenic locales with his treasured camera around his neck to capture beautiful frames of nature and animals.
"I have been doing the duty of a temple priest for 10-15 years and started developing an interest for photography about five years ago. And today, it has become an integral part of my life," Umesh told Express. A native of Muvattuppuzha, Umesh commutes to Annapoorneswari temple daily. He mentioned there are three main priests in the temple and when he travels as part of photography, his colleagues take his place. He often visits Thattekad bird sanctuary and has taken numerous pictures there. "When a new species arrives, they inform me and I travel to capture it. Nature, birds and animals are my favourite subjects for photography," said the self-taught photographer.
Umesh has also been to Kabini, Vazachal and other scenic places. Often, his friends invite him to accompany them for photography events so that he gets an idea about the lighting and other camera technicalities. "Most of the time I fail to make it due to my responsibilities in the temple and majority of my photography trips are unplanned and random," he said.
"I am a member of PhotoMuse, (a museum for photography) based in Thrissur and they had a strong influence in developing my love and passion for the camera," Umesh said. He said he used to interact with expert photographers who are part of the group and this helped him understand the technical side. He mentioned that social media helped him a lot to gain popularity as he uploaded the pictures he took from various locations on his Facebook page.
Umesh also has an interest towards modelling. He has not yet taken it to a commercial level, but coordinates with his photographer friends and clicks model style portraits. He chuckles, saying the attire of a priest, which he mostly dons, and his modelling pictures show two extremes. But he approaches both of it differently, hence gets the right balance.
But it was not a cakewalk for Umesh to live his passion as some of his relatives taunted him for diverting from his religious duty. But, Umesh highlighted that his family and friends are in complete support for his work, which is his greatest strength. Also, he noted that he never compromises with his duties and traditions even while travelling for photography or modelling. "My first priority is for the temple duties. Following a vegetarian diet, I make sure that I carry enough food from home while travelling or inform my travel partners to have vegetarian food too," he said.
Due to the duties, the chief priest couldn't travel anywhere for the past two months. Now, Umesh is all set to take a trip to Katoomba in Maharashtra along with his photographer pals in the first week of June and return with some amazing frames.