As this year marks the 10th edition of Travel + Leisure India & South Asia’s reader’s choice India’s Best Awards, we are elated to introduce IBA Icons—an editorial-led category that felicitates 10 changemakers and trendsetters across hospitality and lifestyle industries. Presenting the Photographer For A Cause, Kalyan Varma.
Wildlife Photographer & Filmmaker
Vizag-born Kalyan Varma graduated as an engineer, worked in IT for three years, and then gave it all up for a life in nature. He hasn’t looked back since. Over a decade, Varma has made many memorable documentaries, and among his accolades is an Emmy nomination. His most impactful work was a series of films on human-elephant conflict made in Karnataka six years ago. “The visuals were strong and led to meaningful policy changes. Even today, the film is included in the course work of forest officers,” he beams. One of his hardest projects was to film a tiger in the Sundarbans for a BBC series. “We were staying in a boat, scanning for tigers 12 hours a day, and I had not shot a single frame for 30 days. On the 31st day, I had an hour-long sighting and had to get all my shots in that time—from a wobbly boat,” Varma recalls. The photographer took an unusual decision early on in his career—to make his pictures available for free download. “Most of them [conservation organisations] do not have big budgets to send photographers or license photos. For them to have a repository of images is a great help in publishing campaigns, doing press, or fundraising,” says Bengaluru-based Varma, whose recent film, Wild Karnataka, was narrated by David Attenborough. Varma is also the co-founder of a vast online community called India Nature Watch and a photography festival named Nature InFocus.
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