Call of the wild: Tallo Anthony strives to conserve nature through his camera
Being a photographer cannot always guarantee you bread and butter.
Born in Ziro, a small picturesque valley and one of the most culturally rich regions in Arunachal Pradesh, Tallo Anthony never had to look further for inspiration, at least where photographing and documenting nature was concerned. Tallo was just 11 when his father handed him a Kodak camera. “I remember taking a picture of mom and him. Thereafter, throughout my school life, I would borrow a camera to take pictures of my friends whenever we went out,” he reminisces. Last year, he received the ‘Young Achiever Award’ for his film on Eagle
Nest Wildlife Sanctuary. He is currently working on a series—On the Brink, Season 2—which showcases the diverse species and habitats in India.
But being a photographer cannot always guarantee you bread and butter. Tallo had to take up a job with the local forest department to support his family. All the same, his love for wildlife photography always followed him. “It was during a biodiversity camp organised by the forest department, Millo Tasser, the head of the Shergaon Forest Division, saw me taking pictures on my phone. He immediately gave me a point-and-shoot camera to use. And that’s how I started.” In October 2015, Tallo got his first assignment as the official photographer of a nature camp (conducted by the forest department) and there’s been no looking back.
Tallo hails from an ethnic community called the Apatani or more accurately Tanii, which is among the very few tribes in the world that worship nature. They also practice permanent wetland cultivations, social forestry and have a paddy-cum-fish culture that has a high level of sustainability. “I believe, the Ziro Valley is a good example of a living cultural landscape where man and environment have harmoniously existed together through changing times.”
Tallo believes awareness is the first step towards conservation. “Photography/videography is no doubt a powerful tool to enable this (awareness). I have documented the life history of several species and the threats they face—from the Asian elephant which is the largest land mammal that we have in India to the Pygmy hog which is the smallest wild pig species found in the wild. I have also filmed human-animal conflict of Assam for the Assam State Biodiversity Board.” Whenever Tallo goes for a shooting, he screens his film for the villagers so that they can understand and be aware of what is going on around them. “We cannot take the entire village there but we can bring the efforts to them, through our films,” he says.
It was not long before this documentary filmmaker and photographer became known for his skills. His project ‘Nature Camp’ at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary won him the ‘Young Achiever Award’ at the Woodpecker International Film Festival (WIFF) held in New Delhi in 2016. This was chosen from among 94 films, a dozen languages and themes from across seven countries.
Even though international recognition came to him early in his career, being a wildlife photographer was no bed of roses for Tallo. For instance, for his latest project ‘Bugun Liocichla—A Call for Conservation’, he had to shoot a newly discovered critically endangered bird. “Despite chasing the rare species ‘Bugun Liocichla’ for two years, we could get only 20-second footage of the bird. We had to lay motionless for around eight hours straight, and stay awake and shoot at nights, risking encounters with wild animals and poachers.,” says the photographer.
Close calls have always been a part of his journey—from facing wild elephant herds to leopards. He laughs, “Once, I thought I saw a leopard disappear into a bush and suddenly it was staring right at our faces. I did not move but stared back directly, this I presume prompted him to leave.” Besides such hair-raising encounters, he says being a wildlife filmmaker is also an expensive craft. “If you do not have a vision and inclination, treading this path seems almost impossible.” Tallo’s dream is to someday create an exclusive open-source digital library on the rich traditions, culture and wildlife of Northeast India.