From behind his camera, Sandesh Kadur sees the world from a very different angle. His passion for wildlife sets him apart and has earned him worldwide respect as one of the most promising photographers and documentary filmmakers of his generation. Through the use of images both still and video, Sandesh exposes the need for conservation and encourages protection of the world’s bio-diversity.
Currently a Naturalist and Filmmaker at the Gorgas Science Foundation and working with the University of Texas at Brownsville, he has photographed and filmed countless species from the Cloud forests in Mexico to the Western Ghats of southern India. Considered an “emissary for the Ghats”, his documentary titled – Sahyadris: Mountains of the Monsoon earned worldwide acclaim and a slew of prestigious international documentary awards. These include a Special Award for Wildlife Conservation, a Gold REMI Award for Creative Excellence, a Merit Award for Cinematography, as well as a nomination for BBC’s Green Oscar for Best Newcomer of the Year, among many others. In 2005 Sahyadris made its television premiere and was one of the highest rated shows on Discovery Channel India. One of his projects at the Gorgas Science Foundation is to produce short 10-15 minute documentaries as part of a science curriculum about the natural history of south Texas. These shows, on subjects ranging from Hurricanes to Sea turtles, serve as a teaching aid with a conservation message built in and are shown in schools throughout south Texas. Sandesh’s next major documentary project is about the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle in Mexico and its conservation success story.
Apart from documentaries his photographic mastery has also won him international praise and spawned his most recent project – a book about India’s Western Ghats – A Vanishing Heritage, which was released in late 2005.
Q&A with Sandesh
1. When did you know you wanted to focus your photography on Conservation issues?
I read a quote in a documentary on television when I was in my early teens. It said that, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, We love only what we understand, We understand only what we are taught”. I had just taken up photography with my father’s age old Nikkormat camera and looking into the viewfinder was all it took to have me hooked to the natural world. In the initial years photography was more about simply capturing the beauty of nature. Later when I started working with the Gorgas Science Foundation I understood their motto of conservation through education and worked at creating images that went beyond simply being beautiful to having a strong message of conservation built in.
2. Who are the photographers whom you admire, or who inspired you to become a professional photographer?
3. Most people don’t know what the lifestyle of a photographer is, can you give us some insight into your life in the field?
I suppose this is one of the most asked questions to a wildlife photographer. There have no doubt, been very close heart-stopping encounters with large animals like elephant, buffalo, rhino and tigers. Some perhaps life threatening… but the one that ranks the top in the most dangerous encounters had to do with a little insect that we all are familiar with – the mosquito. It was not the most fun experience going in and out of consciousness, being miles away from any medical help and worse, not knowing that I was suffering from cerebral malaria. In hindsight I would rank coming out of that experience alive as one of the most dangerous situations I’ve been in and now treat mosquitoes with a lot of respect. All other encounters’ fall very short of this mind numbing experience.
4. You’re in Kaziranga at the moment, what are you working on?
I’m in Kaziranga at the moment shooting the first part of a three-part series titled ‘Wild India’ to be broadcast on National Geographic. Around the same area I’m also working on completing a documentary about clouded leopards that have recently been rehabilitated in the wild. My main project right now is a coffee-table book highlighting the spectacular biodiversity of the Eastern Himalayan landscape to be out in the fall.