How photography can create awareness about conservation – creative insights from 14-year-old nature enthusiast Amoghavarsha Patlapati
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 615 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Karnataka Chitakala Parishath recently hosted an exhibition titled Moghi’s Tales, featuring over 100 photographs of wildlife by Amoghavarsha Patlapati. See Part I of our coverage here, and our special compilations of quotes and proverbs on Earth Day and World Environment Day.
Amoghavarsha is a 14-year-old student at National Public School, Rajajinagar, Bengaluru. The exhibition featured a wide range of wildlife in national parks from Bandipur to Kaziranga. He has also launched a film series on wildlife.
Journey of a photographer
“Photography is my way of expressing my love for nature and a way to bring attention towards conservation of nature,” Amoghavarsha says, in a chat with YourStory.
“It also gives me immense joy. When I am in the forest with my camera and amongst animals and birds, I feel one with nature,” he adds.
He first got interested in photography at the age of four, when his mother was also trying photography. “I started out with a Nikon P900 and now use the Nikon Z9. I have clicked over 60,000 photographs till now,” he proudly says.
In one of his most memorable photographs, he captured a mother elephant with her calf. “I have also captured photographs of other rare animals and birds,” Amoghavarsha adds, reeling off a list including wild dogs, black panther, barking deer, and rhinoceros.
Among birds, he has photographed the blue-capped rock thrush, white-throated kingfisher, flamingo, female paradise flycatcher, Malabar hornbill, and crested eagle.
“The biggest challenge I face is having to wait patiently for the perfect photograph. You have to spot the location where the animals may come. You must be very careful not to scare them away. Then you have to wait for the perfect moment,” he describes.
“This has been the biggest challenge and it has also been the biggest lesson,” Amoghavarsha explains. As a school student, balancing his studies and passion for photography is another challenge.
“Wildlife photography is not a half-day or one-day affair. It requires a lot of dedication in terms of time and effort to get even reasonable shots. Fortunately, I have my family and others who are very supportive,” he says.
At the moment, he has no plans to sell his photographs. “But if I come across an appropriate platform, I will dedicate the proceeds for causes such as conservation of nature, forests and endangered species,” Amoghavarsha promises.
Pandemic and beyond
For many artists and photographers, the pandemic was a tough time. “Unlike many other professions, there is no work from home for photography! Of course, I was really sad but I used the time to improve my skills and learn much more about wildlife photography,” he recalls.
“That learning during the pandemic has made me a better photographer, and is helping me now when I'm able to get back in the field,” Amoghavarsha says.
Looking ahead, he plans to explore landscape photography. “I would like to enter wildlife filming. I have done eight short films of 10 minutes each about specific species to create awareness about conservation efforts. I want to try and do a full-scale project on each species,” he enthuses.
“All photographs tell a story. In my work, I believe that I'm showing people the beauty of our nature and the need to protect it,” Amoghavarsha explains.
“When we see a tiger in a photograph, we think how beautiful it is. But we encroach on its space and when it is seen in human settlements, we want it to be killed,” he laments.
People appreciate the beauty of birds in photographs, but do not bother much to save their habitat. “Through my photography I want to raise awareness about this,” Amoghavarsha says.
Tips and advice
He also offers tips for aspiring photographers. It is not just about expensive equipment and free time. “Nowadays, most people have smartphones and they can use that itself,” he says.
It is also possible to rent equipment at reasonable prices, and buy high-end cameras and accessories after becoming a professional photographer. “Some people initially feel that their photographs aren't good, and give up too soon,” Amoghavarsha observes.
“I myself didn't take very good photographs at first. But if you are passionate, you have to keep doing it and you will get better,” he affirms.
“It is also not mandatory to go to forests for wildlife photography. To start with, you can simply photograph birds from your homes or nearby parks or lakes,” Amoghavarsha suggests.
The big picture
In sum, he feels that wildlife photography should not be seen in isolation but in synchronisation with larger nature and wildlife conservation efforts. “I also feel that photography should not harm or intimidate wildlife and its habitats,” he adds.
“Some people get desperate and go overboard to get a photograph and end up harming the wildlife or their habitat. We must not forget that we have to be conservationists first and then photographers,” Amoghavarsha emphasies.
“We also have the responsibility of preserving nature for future generations. For me, photography is not an end in itself but an instrument to create awareness about conservation, especially among millennials,” he explains.
“That's why I go to many government schools and talk about this. Even in my recent exhibition, the highest participation was by school children,” Amoghavarsha signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
(All exhibition photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the Moghi's Tales venue.)