Akash Das’ passion for photographing wildlife has led him to uncover fascinating stories hidden within the country’s national parks. At Delhi’s All India Fine Arts & Crafts (AIFACS) gallery, his black-and-white photographs of two pairs of saras crane — the state bird of Uttar Pradesh — captured at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, have a unique title, “they are not only made for each other, they are mad for each other too”. “If one bird dies, the other doesn’t pair with any other bird. Sometimes, the partner also stops eating and dies,” Das says about the world’s tallest flying birds, while giving a walk through the exhibition, titled “Wild India — Celebrating Wilderness”.
The exhibition, with over 150 photographs by nine photographers, is a peek into India’s diverse wildlife species and their natural habitat. So, it’s no surprise to spot the creme de la creme of the wildlife world at the venue — Ravi Singh, the CEO of WWF-India, renowned wildlife filmmakers Bedi Brothers and Samir Sinha, former director of Jim Corbett National Park, are among the many visitors. Ajay Suri, organiser of the exhibition, says, “The idea is to show the varied wildlife of India through the lens of different wildlife photographers.”
Suri points to his portrait of the famous tigress Char Amma (mother of four) of Jim Corbett’s Bijrani region, shot before her death last year. “She was such a dedicated mother and would take such good care of her cubs and provide them with food,” says Suri.
His documentary A Tiger’s Heart, a tale of two abandoned cubs of a tigress named T5 at the Ranthambore National Park, has a gripping narrative. “When the mother died, the cubs were orphaned, and their survival was at stake. Once a tigress gives birth to the cubs, there is absolutely no role for a tiger, the father moves out, the mother takes over and teaches the cubs how to hunt. In this case, somehow the biological father knew that these cubs had lost their mother and started taking care of the cubs.” Tigress Noor also features among Suri’s photographs, appearing in a contemplative mood in Ranthambore National Park. Suri also recalls T42, an aggressive and moody tiger, with a tendency to charge at anybody.
In terms of personalities and temperaments, Suri finds tigers similar to humans. “Some of them may get angry very quickly. In Corbett, there was a tiger named Bhola; he would just come and sit in front of a vehicle and not move, and be totally unperturbed. Another tiger, a man-eater, was very elusive and hard to spot.”
Das, who has exhibited in Paris, Hamburg and Miami, has captured two leopards yawning together in synchronicity in Rajasthan’s Bera area. Among his other displays are shots of baby elephants mimicking their parents engaged in an act of love, and elephants throwing mud over their bodies. “Before coming out into the sun every morning, elephants put mud on themselves so that their skin doesn’t get a sunburn. They put a lot of dust all over their body, as if powdering it, by uprooting grasses. It has got a medicinal value so that no insect settles in because of the mud,” he adds.
Bringing the “celebrating wilderness” aspect into the exhibition is Sharad Kumar Verma’s snowy mountainous landscapes of the Lahaul-Spiti region, in freezing temperatures of minus 25 degrees. Padma Shri-awardee Anup Sah, a photographer and mountaineer from Nainital who has captured the Himalayas for 40 years, renders views of the snow-capped Mount Kailash and the wildlife around. He hopes the exhibition helps enthusiasts learn ways of composition and techniques from the best in the field, than merely posting their photographs on social media.
The exhibition is on till January 23
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