How did your journey of environmental photography begin?
This journey likely began very early in my childhood. Growing up in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India, I was privy to raucous debates between my father who is an environmentalist, and an uncle who worked at the World Bank, on the nature of large dams. My father also read to me from the works of Masanobu Fukuoka and Wendell Berry — both farmers close to nature. As a family, we would go for treks into the forested hills of Mumbai and we were fortunate to live in a wooded area of the metropolis. Nature, therefore, and natural systems were a big part of my early education. My mother taught me the importance of communicating well. It is from her that I got my love for writing and communication.
Moreover, every month a yellow-bordered magazine, the National Geographic, would come home and I would pore over the stories in it, imagining myself walking across landscapes, shooting and writing their stories. It was always my dream to explore ecosystems and document them. It would, however take a lot of wandering before I developed the conviction in myself to follow that dream.
Currently, the world is gripped with a host of environmental issues - whether it’s climate change, environmental migration, degradation of ecosystems or even issues we overlook often at times such as noise pollution. How do you decide which ones you want to focus on?
Interestingly, when you start researching one and you find them all connected! So I start with a region and explore the interconnectedness of issues in that region. Or, I focus on an ecosystem and explore the issues across regions that arise from that ecosystem being degraded. Stories are everywhere. The important thing, I feel, is to slow down and walk them back through time and across space to find and make connections. In making connections is where the clues of how we got into a mess or how we can get out of it may lie.
For example, when I went to north Bengal to write about a dam that India built there in 1971, I realized that that one structure, that one decision made misguidedly four decades ago, has led not only to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people around the barrage, but also to the collapse of fisheries across the lower Ganga basin — affecting people more than 400km upstream and an equal distance downstream. Not only that, it is one of the chief culprits of a sinking Sundarbans delta, which is 400 km away and has desiccated lands across the border in Bangladesh. This then becomes a story not only of environmental migration, but of degraded ecosystems and, of course, all of this is exacerbated by the spectre of climate change.
Could you give us insights into your creative process behind environmental photography?
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