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Photography for a cause: how the Vismaya group raised Rs 25 lakh for social causes

Madanmohan Rao
7th Dec 2018
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In this photo essay, we showcase some of the outstanding photographs from the Vismaya collective, and share insights from co-founders Murali Santhanam and Amar Bhaskar.


PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 265 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Photography is not just a stress-buster or weekend hobby, but also a way to channel energy for social causes and help the needy. Talent and social good can go hand in hand, as shown by the group Vismaya (meaning ‘surprise’ or ‘amazing’).

Along with Rotary Bangalore West, Vismaya recently held a photo exhibition and donation drive called Vismaya Varshini at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. The funds raised are for programmes in education and healthcare, such as providing e-learning equipment in under-served areas and medical programmes for cardiac care, nephrology, and eye care.

Vismaya is a group of working professionals with the shared passion of “photography for a cause.” They formed the Vismaya Collections of photographs seven years ago, and have held four major photo exhibitions from 2012 onwards.

Founding members include Amar Bhaskar (management executive), Venugopal Thantry (engineer), Murali Santhanam (banking and IT), Sisir Kumar (resource management), Goutham Ramesh (IT architect), Harish Rao (software consultant), Sridhar Thantry (banking), and Vinod Balan (IT audit, and publisher of Earth Shots).

“We wanted to use our well-made photographs to generate social benefit for people in need. So far, we have managed to raise Rs 25 lakh donation from our exhibitions,” said Murali Santhanam, in a chat with YourStory. 

For example, funds are raised for the Vidya Mitra program, whose e-teaching kit costs Rs 44,000. The group also has an online store for making donations by buying pictures. The photos are printed on special Hahnemule canvas paper for high quality presentation, colour stability and longevity. Donation prices are set at Rs 6,500 per photograph, including framing and delivery.

“India needs lots of help in core services like education and healthcare. Every small drop from each of us would make an impact. We must explore avenues to give back to society for the benefits we have received throughout our lives,” Murali added.

“The greatest satisfaction of making a photograph comes when one of them finds its way to the donor’s home, brightening their lives every day, and reminding them of their big heart,” Murali says. He calls this quality of the picture “wall value,” which goes beyond social media likes.

“Over the years, we have developed a better understanding of what people love to see and appreciate. We make simple well-composed pictures that require creating unique scenes by being in places at odd hours. We also would like to stress on the importance of doing this together as a team that brings out the best in each one of us,” he adds.

“Success for us comes from raising the bar at our exhibitions and through fundraising, and following the path we have set out on,” said co-founder Amar Bhaskar. He was inspired to take up photography right from his childhood days, when his uncle and aunt would organise photography events. 

“I bought my first camera in 1988, for which I saved up in my first job,” he recalled. Surviving cancer in 2006 led him to realise the power of photography as a diversionary as well as inspirational activity. “Photographs give us satisfaction, but we can use it to help others also,” he explained.

“To make an impact, you must produce something that is compelling, unique and simple,” Murali signs off.

Now what have you done today to channel your passion into something more than a hobby, and make an impact on those who are less fortunate or underserved?

Amar Bhaskar
Amar Bhaskar

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at PhotoSparks@YourStory.com!

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.

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