This wildlife photographer is ‘BET’ing for a better world
A wildlife photographer of national renown, Biju Karakkonam, has been striving for nature and environment protection for more than 15 years. Born at Manacaud in Thiruvananthapuram district, he was transplanted to his maternal hometown of Karakonam, a village in the southern Kerala border, at the age of four.
After completing his primary and secondary school education from Karakonam and college education from a parallel college at Neyyattinkara, Biju took a break from learning and took up numerous jobs from taking tuitions as soon as his SSLC exams were over to joining as an LIC agent at the age of 18, a position he maintained for 9 years.
At the age of 41, Biju completed his Masters in Fine Art Photography from Karnataka Open University, becoming one out of the five students to graduate from the first ever MFA Photography batch in India. The very next year he also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism.
An interest in photography right from his childhood prompted Biju to visit his friend Prasad at the studio within his home during degree days. The aim of these visits was to capture his self in the roll of film that he took along. These visits inspired him to take Prasad’s SLR camera and experiment with photography.
Earliest models of his art were the flowers and butterflies in the courtyard. The first camera that he owned was a Minolta Autofocus bought from Prasad. Thus began his love for photography. The love for travel and the desire to capture new lives and new sights in both memory and film led Biju to choose photography as his livelihood.
One should choose something that they love, says Biju, be it in education, career or choice of a life partner. Often we try to adjust our preferences or satisfy ourselves with what we get. This is the reason for our failures in life. Sadly, only a few succeed.
When a student learns something he is passionate about, he/she loves it and finds happiness in learning. When you choose a job that you love, you never feel monotony or dissatisfaction. Biju feels that it is this love for photography that gave him utmost satisfaction when he chose photography as a career.
To learn cinematography was a long cherished dream which could not be fulfilled owing to financial troubles at home. However, Biju made his maiden venture into cinematography by shooting two schedules with his friend and cinematographer Vincy Lopez for the movie ‘Kalam’ directed by Sooraj Sreedhar, yet another friend of Biju’s. Through journeys and documentary production, I am still continuing my education in photography. Each journey and documentary is a quest for new knowledge, says Biju.
Biju explains the BET campaign
The drastic changes in nature in places I revisited after an interval of time agonised me. The destruction suffered by nature due to human intervention left deep and painful scars in me. I have been conducting photography exhibitions, and camps and journeys to experience nature up close from 2006. The aim of these activities is to remind the public of the necessity of preserving nature and biodiversity for our future generations.
Over the last 15 years, over 80 exhibitions of my photographs have been conducted both inside and outside Kerala. I have observed that the older generation is reluctant to take part in such activities. All of them are in some race to conquer life. Ever since I realised that such messages can be imparted to society only through children, I decided to shift the focus to such programmes on children.
In collaboration with the NGO Child Empowerment Trust, we have begun activities to impart the idea of “BET for a better world” through interactions with children. The BET in campaign name stands for Butterflies and Bees, Elephant and Tiger respectively. BET is just a symbol and represents all living beings. The concept is to create a society which stands together to bet for creating a better world. Everyone is a victor in this bet.
We can prevent the world from the impending destruction only if we make our future generations aware that humans are not the sole inheritors of this planet. The present older generation is incapable of this as they run after wealth and power. They were prepared only for that by the previous generation and it is the same that they pass on to the next generation.
India’s greatest wealth is its youth which comes to more than 60 percent of its total population. Their outlook towards nature and society should change. Only through the intervention of the youth can we bring a change in the society. Politics should not intervene in nature. The politics of nature is the survival of all living beings.