Thiruvananthapuram: The session titled Kadine Nokkumbol Kandathu at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2019 stood apart from the rest, in that the panelists communicated through photos instead of with words. Acclaimed photographer Balan Madhavan kept the audience spellbound with his pictures clicked over the years from across the world, while photojournalist Jyoti Karat brought them down to reality by showcasing a series of her pictures on how certain tribal communities live in harmony with nature, thereby reducing human animal conflict.
Balan Madhavan started off by re-defining our common concept of the forest as thickly wooded and green. The grasslands of Africa are also forests, he showed with examples, so are areas of the Arctic. While showing his spectacular photographs of the wildlife in Africa, he hastened to add that photography is but a training in disappointment. Adventure should not be one’s aim, rather; the powers of observation would be the best tool for a photographer.
The photographer also hinted at how spots untouched by humans are the most beautiful, including the Anaimudi mountain in Kerala. While displaying photos of his visit to Antarctica, Balan Madhavan said that he almost wanted to retire, on capturing the immaculate beauty around. “Most of us had tears in our eyes and the moment the first rays of the sun hit the ice, I felt there was God,” he said.
Being a photojournalist, Jyoti’s photos told stories, those of tribal communities in the Nilgiris who have such a sense of belonging that they describe the forest as their home. “Despite that, the human animal conflict is minimal where they live, the reason being that they respect the wildlife around and make sure they don’t cross paths. For them, protecting the forests is like protecting themselves,” she observed.
Photographs of a Paniya tribal and his indigenous flute gave the audience a glimpse of unknown side of their neighbourhood lands. At the same time, Jyoti stressed that humans should not be seen just as the problem but as the solution as well.
Balan Madhavan ended the short but invigorating session by briefing on the basics of what makes a good photograph - should evoke an emotion more than anything else in a viewer.