Every Journey Is An Experience: Wildlife Photographer Nisha Purushothaman
Today’s Greta Thunbergs or some 25 years ago Severn Cullis-Suzukis, all these women have been waging the Climate Change war, loud and louder….making it deafening, making it impossible for world leaders to ignore and direct their attention to only economists’ insights and corporates’ benefits.
While we have these warlords making headlines today, we have had silent crusaders who have, with sincere dedication, been working towards the same goal – conservation of climate through awareness campaigns.
Nisha Purushothaman, a wildlife photographer and naturalist from Paravur near Kollam district in Kerala, now a UAE resident for over a decade, is one such conservationist. Her belief that a photograph has the ability to transform attitudes and perceptions has been her hope for the change she strives to bring about.
Being a woman photographer, she relies on her commitment, creativity, and the courage to excel in this high-octane photography field. Her relentless, untiring efforts have drilled a hole in the glass ceiling she was always made to believe existed; but never succumbed to. She believes women photographers suffer the effects of the same forces that drives women out of other demanding professions. She’s certain that it’s not that their ability is in question, as women photographers are just as talented as their male counterparts. “It’s due time that we all recognize our own implicit biases, and any institutional biases, to figure out how to break them. Perhaps having a conversation in a great way to start.”
Nisha Purushothaman believes that a photograph has the ability to transform attitudes and perceptions has been her hope for the change she strives to bring about.
And with that in mind, she c0-founded Paws Trails Explorers – a community for photographers, wildlife lovers, travelers and conservationists, alongside her best friend Hermis Haridas. While both of them quit their jobs to take up wildlife photography full-time, the friends set their eyes on making Paws Trails as the region’s premier voice for conservation.
As an avid traveler and a conservationist, Nisha firmly believes that people need more awareness about our planet, our home to understand the already fragile eco-system. It is only then that they will be able to make the much-needed contribution in conserving its natural resources.
Nisha’s rendezvous with Nature began early on from her relocating homes due to her father’s job with the Indian Airforce. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she lived in Nature – with a mini forest at footsteps from her door, a snake temple for neighbor, vipers and cobras as guests every once in two days, more than 20-30 fruit-bearing plants in her kitchen garden and some 10-12 variety of birds chirping in her backyard. With paddy fields and riverbanks as excursion spots, it is no wonder that she took inspiration and enrolled in an undergrad programme for Applied Arts at the Fine Arts college of Trivandrum. But once she graduated, jobs like website or graphic designing and event photography onboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise could not satiate the photographer in her. Nisha crossed borders and arrived in the UAE to indulge in a world through her lens.
Finding like-minded and fellow passionistas, her ‘weekend photography’ turned to ‘daily photography’. And slowly, but surely, Nisha has since been taking up various initiatives and designing campaigns to voice her concerns. From the backwaters and rainforests of India to the deserts of the Middle East, or the crater of Ngorongoro to the grass plains of Masai Mara, she has spent days and nights passionately following the birds and wildlife of these places.
She saw herself being inundated with requests from like-minded shutterbugs from around the world, to accompany and learn from her. As a natural transition, she took up this opportunity and began organising group tours, sharing her experience and expertise.
Just hearing her narrate in detail of her expeditions, rushes your own adrenaline. Nisha relives her tête-à- tête with tigers while on a project for Kerala Tourism – a tale all the more appreciable when you consider that she spent six months tracking pug marks to no avail. Feeling disillusioned, the team unexpectedly sighted the big cats on the very last day of their project. “It important to understand animal behavior when you step into their natural habitat to capture them through your lens. I’ve had cheetahs climb atop our jeep, sniff my head, and touch my nose with its tail for almost 15 minutes, before going away. I’ve also had cubs come right up to my lens and kiss it.”
“But while it can be extremely tempting to reach out and pet the cub, we’d never do it – just because we know the mum will always be around, and any such attempt might be fatal. So, it’s about knowing where to draw the line,” narrates the adventurer in her. “Every journey is an experience. The challenge is in being prepared for those magical moments through the journey. And the fun lies in the unpredictability. The activists host regular exhibitions in Dubai to highlight the dire need for increased conservation efforts. “The statistics are downright depressing,” says Nisha. “Where once there were hundreds of thousands of tigers, lions and cheetahs, these numbers have dwindled down to a few thousand across the entire world.
I’ve had cheetahs climb atop our jeep, sniff my head, and touch my nose with its tail for almost 15 minutes, before going away. I’ve also had cubs come right up to my lens and kiss it.
The general attitude of apathy towards the very real possibility of these species going extinct is what Nisha and her companion endeavour to break. They are especially aiming at schools and kids, in the hope of “catching them young”. It’s foolish to assume that the extinction of these wild animals in a distant part of the world won’t affect you, she points out. “Every species on this planet is just one part of the overall chain. When one link is missing, be sure that it will affect the entire ecosystem – including you.”
Meanwhile, the flock of Paws Trails Explorers have managed to keep the flame alive in the face of all challenges. Tells Nisha that in the last three years they have hosted 19 international wildlife photography exhibitions in Dubai. Their outreach programmes have seen them conduct 70 plus conservation talks and photography workshops across the world and lectures in educational institutions to create awareness among the students.
Just last year, they conducted their first International Wildlife Festival in association with National Geographic Abu Dhabi and Emirates Nature-WWF. And in preparation for its second edition, 12 speakers, including filmmakers, scientists, NG photographers, WWF team members and school children, will be talking about conservation.
It is with immense pride and humility that Nisha briefs about making it a reality in publishing two coffee table books (The Big Cat Trails & The Arabian Trails). It was on 1 st October, 2016 that PT Explorers magazine, one of their tools for conservation through photography, went online for the first time. In its 19th edition this year, the journey has been an exciting one for them.
In spite of the many challenges they’ve faced and continue to do so, it’s their commitment towards the cause for conservation that keeps them going. “We have associated with 300 plus passionate photographers from across the world and have 40 active and passionate volunteers of different nationalities working for us.”
Nisha has been To live her life to the fullest as an artist, photographer, educator and a conservationist.
Listening to people, Yasmeen Maqbool acquaints herself to their life’s feature. What inspires and encourages, she’s always on the lookout for ‘passionistas’ and weaves their stories to bring to you the movers and shakers of today! Her only other true indulgence is spending quality time with her green fingers while listening to Jagjit Singh ‘ghazals’.