Thursday, 5 March 2009

Behind The Green Lens

A car journey generally provides for a lot of things – boon companionship, good music, varied scenery, maybe the thrill of hitting a new high on the speedometer.

What you don’t expect is one person suddenly ordering you to stop, then getting off and creeping stealthily towards a bush across the road – camera in hand.

No, he doesn’t work for the CIA, and there is no terrorist hiding behind that bush.

What there is though, is a rare kind of butterfly that is seldom seen anywhere outside a few miles radius of the area we were driving through.

An encyclopedic knowledge of fauna and an alert and unbelievably keen eye have helped the photographer to spot it.

That’s right – he’s actually seen and identified a butterfly that is 30 paces away, from a car moving at 60 kms an hour.

Welcome to the world of Jignasu Dolia – observer extraordinaire, passionate

photographer and qualified wildlife biologist.

In this day and age of hectic schedules and stressful deadlines, his work seems almost an anachronism.

Not for him, the daily rush of life or the headlong charge into an activity. He would rather prefer to wait, with infinite patience, for the time of the day when the sun is bright but not too harsh, risen but not yet overhead and butterflies are out but not at their flying best. Because all these elements have to come together in a fine balance to get that one perfect shot of a butterfly with its wings spread.

It requires care, it requires skill and it requires an ability to blend seamlessly into the wild. Above all it requires a love and respect for nature at her purest.

Jignasu has had that love since early childhood. Almost as soon as he could climb out of his crib, he wanted to climb trees. When he could learn to string together a sentence, he wanted to understand the grammar of animals. When he could distinguish sounds, he wanted to hear the symphony of waterfalls.

His perceptive lens is ever on the look out for some of nature’s lesser known

treasures – a spider weaving his web, a snake in repose, a scorpion crawling out from under a pile of debris – whose luster often gets lost in the shadows of the charismatic tiger or the majestic elephant, but whose beauty once discovered is impossible to forget.

His passion is not limited by the equipment available, or lack thereof. You can own the finest equipment, but you still need to be able to spot a gecko [picture shown above] that’s camouflaged by a leaf, hidden on a bush, at the bottom of a neighbour’s garden, on an unfamiliar island that you’re visiting for the first time (the Andamans, since you ask).

It is that ability to sense the moment that lets him go beyond nature and allows him to capture and freeze human emotions. Whether it be a lady in the mountains of Uttarakhand [formerly Uttaranchal] who exudes beautiful simplicity, or a girl with dreadlocks living in a stone-hut, fascinated by the arrival of a man with a camera, or just two young girls, whose smiles defy description and who symbolize so purely childhood innocence [picture below], they have all formed a part of Jignasu’s world.

He has traveled through various forests and countrysides – camera always in hand, and eyes always on the lookout. Nature has filled him with awe everywhere, and he has been driven by a passionate desire to share that.

From among the many, many photographs that he has collected over almost a decade, a select few are on display at a gallery in Pondicherry.

But this time he has gone beyond the wish to merely share his pictures, because it is not only his pictures that are on display. It’s a message that he wishes to share through them – that of safeguarding India’s natural heritage. Of creating a sense of pride and responsibility towards India’s wild habitats. Of realizing that each one of us has a stake in the natural world, and that as stakeholders, we have a duty to preserve it.

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. Find the remote that controls your daily life, hit the pause button, and come soak in the several thousand that these will evoke.

Join Jignasu Behind the Green Lens.

Jignasu Dolia has an M.Sc in wildlife biology and is a published author. His paper on butterflies in coffee plantations has been published in the peer-reviewed ‘Animal Conservation’ journal (February 2008)

His photos have been published in “India Naturally”.

He also won second place in the 2007 Society for Conservation Biology Student Award Competition.

His pictures are displayed at an exhibition cum sale at Pondy Cre’Art, 53B Suffren Street, 1st Floor, Pondicherry 605001 from 13th March.

A wider selection of his photographs can be viewed here.


Hriday said...

Nice shots. you know this guy?

Sneha said...

hey saurab!!
nice work... keep it up!! thanks.. :)

Saurabh Somani said...

@ Hriday: yes i do know him. been his classmate for 18 years, and know him for about 23 years!

@Sneha: thanks

Divya said...

an incredibly well-written piece!

Saurabh Somani said...

@ divya: thank you, that's an incredibly well appreciated comment :)

Abhipsa said...

wow jigu! congrats!
& people say that jigu is a lazy boy!
thanks saurabh for revealing his talents.
follow your passion jigu...great!

Arpit said...

Lazy saurabh has made lazy jigu look unlazy, thereby looking not-so-lazy himself!

People, don't believe what you see from behind the green lens - there is some serious distortion of reality taking place ;)

Vikas said...

Your article on the blog is very well written. It is a wonderful introduction to Jigu's amazing photographs. You need to produce many more of these high-quality feature write-ups in order to acquire the confidence and critical mass to get your own 'cherry' dream going. Good beginning though; will look forward to more of such general interest articles apart from the cricket articles...

Saurabh Somani said...

@ Abhipsa (abhi-ben?): thank you

@ Arpit: Distortion lies in the eye of the beholder!

However, the camera never lies - and the photos are very much real.
[i know your distortion comment applies to the perceived 'work' put in, but am clarifying here, in case anyone thinks the photos are distorted in any way]

@ Vikas: thank you, shall keep that in mind.

Lalita said...

hey Saurabh... That was very well written really makes people want to see the pics... Jigu, great work..
Proud of u both !! :)

Saurabh Somani said...

@Lalita: thanks! :)

IttiBali said...

Hey, Super-duper!!
Way to go... both of you :))
And good luck for the exhibition.

shraddhaa said...

I stumbled across this blog on your profile in FB and went on to explore more about it. I feel the feature on "Behind The Green Lens" reaches well the audience mainly because it is written so genuinely without false praise. It has a message too very relevant to today's world scenario on biodiversity and conservation. Lovely blend of biography, story telling and factfiling. Enjoyed it!
We have an online forum in UNDP where conservationists, wildlife photographers display their work. This helps in increasing visibility and profiling of the photographer. This has resulted in many wildlife photography assignments for UNDP projects on environment. Might be Jigu could display some of his work, which is fantastic, on that forum. I can be contacted at
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Shraddhaa Mahapatra

Nafisa said...

Wow, I really want to meet Jignasu Dolia. He is amazing. He has inspired me to start my blog. Saurabh you have a very unique way of expressing your views. nice blog :)

Saurabh Somani said...

@itti: thank you!

@shraddha: thank you, glad you enjoyed reading the post!
have passed on the message to jigu as well.

@nafisa: great! so we can look forward to planetwild becoming active soon :)

tarika said...

Hi Saurabh,

I have no words to thank you for writing such an amazing article on Jigu and introduce his talent to all.
You have a fantastic insight which makes me feel proud of Jigu and you.
Keep up the good work and wish you all the best in your new venture.