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Capturing the Wild - The Journey of Saurabh Desai : Retro Kolkata Exclusive


Capturing the Wild - The Journey of Saurabh Desai : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Saurabh Desai, an accomplished nature photographer, has captured the intricate beauty of the natural world through his lens. With a profound connection to nature from childhood and a transition from engineering to photography, Desai has made significant contributions to the field. His work, characterized by its artistic elements and emotional depth, has earned him numerous accolades, including a National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year award. In this interview, Desai shares insights into his journey, his approach to photography, and his commitment to conservation.

 




Retro Kolkata : With your profound connection to nature from childhood, how has this relationship influenced your choice of subjects and themes in your photography?

 

Saurabh Desai: During my childhood, my introduction to nature was not through big cats but through the tiny and macro elements of nature, which are crucial for the ecosystem. This perspective allows me to think beyond big cats and capture the unsung heroes of the forest. As these subjects were less witnessed, my pictures attracted many enthusiastic nature lovers curious to see something different from nature and wildlife. We often misconceive the word 'wild' as aggressive and violent, but for me, wildlife is as beautiful as butterflies and as delicate as the wings of dragonflies.

 



Retro Kolkata : Your transition from engineering to becoming a renowned nature photographer is inspiring. Can you share the moment or experience that convinced you to pursue photography professionally?

 

Saurabh Desai: I have always believed that artists should be known for the choices they make in their art and life, not the sacrifices they have to make. I chose to live like an artist who loves nature, believing that nature has everything to fulfill my needs. My childhood was spent fearlessly, developing a great trust in nature. This trust and fearlessness convinced me to put my strong foot forward and pursue photography professionally.

 



Retro Kolkata : As the author and photographer of the coffee-table book ‘Visual Poetries,’ what message do you hope to convey through your collection of images?

 

Saurabh Desai: When I named it ‘Visual Poetries,’ I wanted to give everyone the freedom to perceive my images in their own way, similar to how we derive different meanings from poetry. My work transcends the general identity of wildlife, focusing more on emotions rather than mere documentation. This book compiles 21 poetic series of images, conveying the art of seeing and inspiring different thoughts every time you look at them.

 

Retro Kolkata : Your work emphasizes the fine art form of nature photography. How do you approach capturing the artistic elements in nature, and what techniques do you employ to highlight them?

 

Saurabh Desai: Finding something uncommon in the common surprises everyone—something that is always there but often goes unnoticed. To achieve this, we need to change the way we look at things around us. I always discard the first thought that comes to mind when I see something through my lens, as it is often influenced by what has already been seen and done. I spend time with the subject, connecting with it emotionally, and try to understand it beyond its physical appearance. I look at the forest from different perspectives, such as a deer, a frog, an insect, or a bird, which gives me unique perspectives that even surprise me.

 



Retro Kolkata : Being involved in conservation activities, how do you balance the need to photograph wildlife, especially endangered species, with the importance of their protection and preservation?

 

Saurabh Desai: Humans, in any form, are the most challenging creatures for our planet. As soon as we decide to enter or interfere, we damage or disturb the balance of nature. Thus, conservation is crucial, even though we know too little about our planet to save it or are too selfish to live in harmony with nature. For me, conservation is a significant term. My photographs aim to make people fall in love with nature because we save only what we love. When I photograph any subject, I pay respect to it, whether it is an animal or fungi, trying to be as non-damaging and non-demanding as possible. I do not push my boundaries and do not force anything beyond its limits.

 



Retro Kolkata : As a faculty member at the Fine Art Department of VN South Gujarat University, what core principles or lessons do you emphasize in your teaching?

 

Saurabh Desai: As a photographer, I always emphasize being a good human being before being a great photographer. I strongly believe that our pictures reflect our DNA as a person, and we don't click what we see; we click what we believe. Therefore, I ask my students to believe in the positive and brighter side of their inner core rather than the cruel and negative aspects of the world.

 

Retro Kolkata : With an impressive list of achievements, including being a Canon Wild-click Mentor and receiving a National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year award, how do these accolades influence your work and vision?

 

Saurabh Desai: Certain achievements are short-lived happiness, something I have received through wildlife and nature. However, my actual achievement would be contributing to the betterment of nature through my photographs. We become professionals when we start thinking about our contribution to what we click rather than what we get from it. The biggest influence in my life is wildlife and nature itself.

 



Retro Kolkata : Your photography equipment is quite extensive. How do you decide which camera or lens to use for a particular scene or subject in nature photography?

 

Saurabh Desai: As I always like to see things from a different perspective, I love experimenting with my choice of lenses. I believe that lens creates the optical manipulation of the scene, which is acceptable if achieved through a set of glasses and not by digital techniques. I often use less popular lenses to give myself a fresh perspective, which is why I have various equipment. Having spent considerable time with them, it is now quite easy for me to pick the right one for each shot.

 



Retro Kolkata : You mentioned the concept of ‘Visual Poetries’ not being an informative or educational material but a luxury to the eyes. Can you elaborate on the importance of creating visually appealing images that also provoke thought or emotion?

 

Saurabh Desai: If an image engages our brain, we are looking at a document. On the other hand, if an image engages our heart, it is considered art. I try to involve my viewers emotionally with the subjects I capture, encouraging them to look beyond the physical properties of the scene. I want them to fall in love with it, and that love might lead them to consider conservation. It is difficult to engage with statistics and scientific data, but art is easier to appreciate, even if it is challenging to understand. If such emotions touch the viewer’s heart, they might end up showing concern or regard.

 



Retro Kolkata : As the owner and co-founder of 50mm Media Productions, how do you incorporate your personal vision and style into the projects undertaken by your company, and what future projects are you excited about?

 

Saurabh Desai: I always carry my natural instincts developed from my nature photography into my commercial work. I balance between the client's perspective and my own style. Clients approach me because of my unique style, and I ensure to maintain it. Recently, I captured the Vantara project by Reliance, delivering over 1000 fine art prints they wanted to be captured through my vision.

 




Saurabh Desai’s journey from engineering to becoming a celebrated nature photographer is a testament to his passion and dedication. His unique perspective on nature and wildlife, combined with his artistic approach, continues to inspire and provoke thought. Through his work and teachings, Desai emphasizes the importance of connecting emotionally with nature and striving for its conservation.

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