One of the most regular and familiar faces in National Geographic , BBC publications, The New York Times and Lonely Planet –an iconic name in the arena of Wild life photography and conservation.; A ’field guy’ something that he loves to call himself, Dhritiman Mukherjee has been working tirelessly for decades towards the conservation and awareness of wildlife all across the globe. He treks and climbs mountain, flies in the sky, dive in the ocean and under the ice for photographically exploring the natural world. He has won many national and international awards which include Carl Zeiss Conservation award, Kirloskar Vasundhara Mitra award, EARTH HERO award from Royal Bank of Scotland for inspiring people towards conservation with his images. He is known for his amazing works on various rare species like Bengal Florican , Western Tragopan and snow leopard,
Someone who travels more than 280 days a year, how are the lockdown days going?
- Although it looks very painful apparently, but, honestly speaking I don’t have any complain. Being outside most of the days in a year, these unfortunate circumstances have given me an opportunity to spend time with my family at home. I could not even spend more than one week at home at a stretch since last 20 years. Also, this has given me an opportunity to process my previously untouched photographs. Although I can’t deny the restlessness inside, but when I see so many people out there suffering so much, I find my problem is almost negligible in comparison.
Right from the days of your Iconic shoots of snow leopard, chased by the rhinos to swimming with the blue sharks at Fiji’s Pacific Harbour – you have done it all that a nature and wildlife photographer can dream of. What’s next?
Yes, looking back it is indeed a treasured memory – shooting the giant anacondas in Brazil rainforest, diving with killer whales in Norway during winter, experiencing the unknown Virunga Mountains’ Active Volcano or marching with the mysterious and unpredictable Low-land Gorillas of Congo –there are so many unforgettable experiences in life. One country I would like to explore next is Australia. Although the uncertainly in the covid and post covid scenario does not leave us with any scope of pre-planning at this moment. I would also love to focus much more now in India. The vastness and amazing variety of eco-system in our country is unparalleled and I would like to spend much more time in exploring and working on strengthening of conservation of wildlife in our country.
What are the basic qualities/ areas that an aspiring photographer need to focus to make it big in the industry?
The first thing that one need to decide at the very beginning is what he/she wants to achieve through the medium of photography. Setting up the goal is utmost important. For many, it may be a medium of expression of an artistic soul or a passion. It has been a passion for me , as well, in the beginning. But, having spent more and more time in the field I found my purpose in the form of contributing to the area of conservation and ecosystem through my works. I wish to connect more and more people with the natural world both emotionally and scientifically.
In our country nature and wildlife, perhaps, still take a back seat when it comes to photography as a career. What are your thoughts on this?
This is really unfortunate that not only “back seat”, wildlife photography as a career has not really taken off in our country. Looking at the current scenario one cannot even be optimistic enough for near future. With print industry struggling to survive everywhere it is not at all easy road ahead for Wildlife or nature photography as career. Digital era has opened up everything for enthusiasts on a platter. Although, Wildlife video or movie-making has a growing demand globally.
Which one is the most memorable experience in your journey so far?
This is a very difficult question to answer. For me, learning anything new or an encounter never happened before is my best experience. Weather swimming with the blue whale or watching a crocodile from the closest range possible –every experience that is unique and never done before are the most memorable ones for me. But it’s not really the magnitude or highly exhilarating experience that always matter, I am no less happy shooting a tiny special dragonfly in my neighborhood.
How do you think the world of photography and travel would change post Covid era? How it is going to affect the wild life conservation
The impact is both good and bad. The good part rather temporary though. Due to the restrictions of tourism and vehicles the carbon emission would be minimized resulting a cleaner environment and peaceful nature. But, as we all know, this is going to be only temporary factor. But, we need to understand the inevitable other side of the story. The overall economic downfall will affect all the poor people down the line associated with forest or living close to national parks and protected areas. The loss of income and tougher living condition would leave them with no choice but to depend on the natural recourses directly. This may lead to more logging, animal poaching and hunting with reduced monitoring. The administration will have to address this issue of double whammy. While the economic crisis and joblessness among poor villagers and forest people would shift the immediate priority from Protection of forest to save the human livelihood, the anti forest activity would increase to great extent with more and more people betting on the natural resources to survive. We have already seen in the recent months, the similar activities increased alarmingly during the Amphan disaster. While this is just my prediction based on certain parameters, but I do hope the adequate measures and planning should be taken to address and avoid these issues as much as possible.
How you like to be remembered as?
My goal is that people should remember and connect with the nature through my work. I would like my work and contribution help people understanding the natural world better and learn how to co-exist peacefully in future.