Jayanth Sharma was always drawn to the camera. Just clicking pictures gave him a high as he comes from a family where photography is a livelihood. “My father taught photography,” says the 38-year-old shutterbug, who adds that that is what got him hooked to the art of photography.
“I also felt I was not using the facilities available at home, which also housed a professional studio. I always tried taking pictures with almost every camera we had. I still remember using the SLR when I was barely five to click pictures of a girl my age,” recalls Jayanth.
Though he started working in the IT sector, it was the “call of the wild” that made him quit his job and “take off to the forests to capture wildlife. Soon he was traveling to Bandipur and Nagarahole. “My interest was more in capturing nature rather than just photography. So the two ideas were married in my head to make me what I am today. And, the camera became a tool of expression from just being a gadget for me. I started using it as a tool to express myself and my creativity,” explains Jayanth, who also runs a photography company, Toehold. It is a photography-based travel company, started in 2010 and based in Bengaluru, Pune, and Mumbai.
“We are a travel company with photography in the nucleus. For instance, when we take people to Africa, they will be guided by us on how to take a picture of wildlife and also teach them about the natural history and the characteristics of animals and so on. We use these trips to teach people about nature and wildlife through simple workshops too,” adds Jayanth.
He claims they organize 50 to 80 trips every year. “We have traveled everywhere, including Africa, Antarctica, Norway. The further away from home, we go, the longer we stay. We also organize trips to Kabini and Bandipur,” says the man who adds, that though most trips are planned, some are wild expeditions. “We just take off with the help of wildlife tourism in expedition style, with no pre-planned format. The expedition is planned based on weather conditions and exploration options.”
Jayanth adds that he is “drawn to capture wildlife than people. Capturing wildlife is heroic and adventurous. The idea to keep the animal’s interest in the forefront and its safety above everything else while clicking its picture is most important. A photographer has to be sensitive and not cause any harm to the wildlife in any way — even blocking its pathway.”
Jayanth believes a wildlife photographer has to first love animals. “We contribute to the conservation of nature in our own small way. If we cannot excite people about wildlife and nature with our trips, then the whole idea of Toehold is a flop. We make them feel for wildlife and core issues such as habitat loss, and poaching. We work with people at the grass-root level and create awareness,” reveals Jayanth who has been a photographer for over 10 years.
He also believes everyone can be a crusader for wildlife, even without venturing into the wild. “Anyone can contribute to it. For instance, wildlife needs a lawyer to fight cases, a writer to write about issues, photographers to click pictures related to them. Everyone can get involved. You can be whereever you are and follow issues and support their cause,” says the man who has won many awards for his photography skills.
He has currently partnered with Amazon India to launch an online photography club called Shutterbug, where he takes online classes.
This article appeared in Metro Plus-The Hindu on 6 August 2018.