When Kalyan Varma joined an IT company, having completed his mechanical engineering, he was ensured that the security needs of the IT behemoth is in good hands. And he did a good job which won the company a star award in 2003, given only to the best few employees in the company. But then he had a passionate pursuit all along and securing it was always on his mind. He finally took a stern decision in 2004, when he left the keyboard and took to clicking. So this time, he was not on the look out for viruses, but for that ultimate moment when nature’s creation is in its most defining sequence. City Express spoke to the city-based wildlife photographer about his nomination in INKFellow and future projects.
At a time when we see people quoting Napoleon (“A picture is worth thousand words”) to stress the importance of photos, only to sell them for the highest bidder, Varma believes that art has a greater job to do than fetch lump sum money. “The primary aim of an artist should be to reach out to larger audiences. There are instances when people have framed my photographs and hung them in their living rooms, but that is not the end of art,” Varma emphasises.
The lensman also walks the talk. He conducts workshops to share his knowledge of photography and his other love: Wildlife. This way of life helps him to ensure that he is not in a camera obscura world while opening up new avenues to explore himself and his art.
Freelancing for international TV channels has brought recognition to Kalyan. His work on wildlife was telecast worldwide. He remembers the beginning of international collaborations: “I shot some rare species of frogs. The team members of some international channels recognised my work and asked me to collaborate with them for their projects.”
Film making, which goes hand in hand with his passion for photography, is more tedious than photography. Varma has his reasons. “In film making, a sequence has to be built and narrated in such a way that it grabs the attention of the audience. But in photography, it is not so. For instance, in a sequence of tiger hunting a deer, if I capture the moment of the big cat jumping on its prey, my work as a photographer is done. But as a film maker I have to match the right music and also capture the whole sequence.”
Patience and perseverance are requisite to keep the passion alive, says Kalyan. “I was filming an elephant in Tamil Nadu recently. During the first week of my shoot, the elephant didn’t let me close. But after three or four weeks, she became nonchalant to my presence. She would go with her daily chores despite my presence.”
Kalyan also shared some of the frustrating moments. “While shooting in Kutch, even after waiting for months, I could not get the right shot. I was shooting the wild ass. Their behaviour is tied to the monsoon season and inevitably dependent on rain. We waited in Kutch for three weeks to rain but not a single drop fell. The land was cracked up. In the end, we couldn’t get anything at all. It was one of the most frustrating project.”
Kalyan is currently working on a four-year project, ‘Survival’, a project with an International TV channel. “The project is about survival of animals during different seasons, their life cycle, challenges they face etc. The monsoon series is predominantly shot in India. It is about how animals and people in India are dependent on monsoon for their activities,” he says.
He has a simple tip for the budding photographers and film makers. “I would suggest that instead of chasing the publications or channels, the work should speak for itself.”
About his nomination in the INKFellow, a physical and digital platform for people to share ideas and drive them to action, he says, “It gives me an opportunity to interact with people from different walks of life like artists, technologists, scientists, designers and others.”