Suyash Keshari - I Have Learned So Much From Wildlife and Nature (Wildlife Photographer)


As time went by, my aspirations and fantasies grew bigger and stronger. I started watching more and more documentaries, begged my father to take me to the forests in Central India and started reading about wildlife in Encyclopedias… well it was more just flipping through the illustrations and photographs that reading at that time. 


Soon, I envisioned having my own show which would raise awareness about wild animals, get people closer to them and get them attached to the animals and their habitat.


Tell us more about your background and journey.


I grew up in the Central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The region is rich in biodiversity and the houses we lived in were frequented by hundreds of species of birds, many troops of langur. Though other mammals did not venture from the forests into the human settlements, their presence in these jungles was abundant. 

As time went by, my aspirations and fantasies grew bigger and stronger. I started watching more and more documentaries, begged my father to take me to the forests in Central India and started reading about wildlife in Encyclopedias… well it was more just flipping through the illustrations and photographs that reading at that time. 

Soon, I envisioned having my own show which would raise awareness about wild animals, get people closer to them and get them attached to the animals and their habitat.

Little did I know that it would take nearly two decades of my life to get to that point. Along the way, I would take several detours in my personal and professional life. For the latter, that meant following another one of my passions: Political Advocacy. 

I pursued my undergraduate education at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, USA, where I majored in Politics and International Affairs with Minors in Journalism and Entrepreneurship. I worked in the U.S.House of Representatives and then at an International Political Advocacy firm in Washington D.C.

In early 2019, I quit my job in order to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a wildlife filmmaker and presenter. After a lot of failures and successes, I finally landed my series with WWF International and released it in December 2019 which you can watch here.

Season 1 of this series focuses on tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park – a place I have visited for over a decade. I know the local people as well as I know some of the tigers there.

The goal of this series was to virtually transport people from across the world into a very pristine natural habitat, learn about tracking wildlife, the importance of the species in this ecosystem, its fragility and the co-existence of humans and large predators in the area such as the tiger.

I believe that we all have a curiosity towards nature embedded deep within us, but somewhere along the way, this curiosity was overtaken by the perils of a fast-paced developing world. The goal of this series is to ignite that curiosity through a first-hand virtual experience. The easiest and most effective way for us to encourage people to conserve nature is to help them find a deeper connection with it - What we can see, we can love. And what we can love, we will fight to protect.



How and when did you realize your passion for wildlife photography and filming?


My passion ignited during one of my visits to Kolkata zoo at the age of four. On this visit, when I was standing in front of a tiger cage, it snarled at me and I jumped in excitement. It was then that my grandfather asked me if I liked seeing animals, to which I had replied “Yes, I love it!”

He then explained to me that these tigers weren’t the same as the ones we saw in magazines or TV shows—these wild cats would remain caged for the rest of their lives. This was when something in me changed, and I just knew I wanted to be in this field.

My grandfather introduced me to many shows on National Geographic, Discovery, and Animal Planet, etc., and I spent my childhood watching wild animals hunting their prey instead of cartoons like Tom and Jerry.

I picked up my dad’s film camera when I was 9 and started taking weird shots. Gradually, I developed a passion for story-telling by sharing these photos with my family or friends. Seeing my passion, my family bought me a camera at age 12, and that set the ball rolling.



What are the important skills one should have to be a successful wildlife filmmaker?


Patience is paramount when it comes to being a wildlife filmmaker. You can go days without pressing the record button. In wildlife, nothing is staged. Everything happens without any signal, so you must be patient yet always sharp with your mind and action. 

Another important aspect is that you as a filmmaker need to be a really good storyteller. You have to find ways to connect people with your subjects and do so in a manner that has a lasting impact.



What has been the biggest learning from your job?


I have learned so much from wildlife and nature. Tigers showed me how to never give up, langurs taught me the importance of family, but perhaps my biggest learning was that conservation is an incredibly tricky subject. 

It is a critical balance between wildlife and people. And I have also learned that it is okay to not have answers to everything. I am very young and still learning the best way to go about addressing wildlife conservation in my own way.


Do you have any tips for people who want to join this field?


A) You need to understand everything about the specific subject location you are shooting at, because the more you understand, the better your photography will get, and the better your story will be as well. Also, invest in your education, learn as much as possible through online ways.


B) Find a way to be unique. Right now, the biggest trend for wildlife photography in India is capturing the Black Panther. I have not seen it or photographed it yet, and I would absolutely love to, but if my sole purpose in life becomes to photograph and film the Black Panther, then I become just one of those people who have photographed the majestic beast. But you have to find a way to make it very unique. Approach it from a new angle, find a storyline about the Black Panther which nobody else has done. That’s how I do it; that’s how you stand out.


C) You have to keep evolving with your subjects and ideas. Moreover, adapt to all kinds of mediums even in social media. You have to let your work be shown to other people.

In wildlife photography, it’s not always about the good photograph, it’s about the story as well. So you have to find a way to link it to some kind of story—be it animal behaviour, history, or even better, conservation. That’s another way to separate yourself.



Which is your favourite book and why?



My favorite book is "The Elephant Whisperer" by Lawrence Anthony. It is about a man's quest to rescue and rehabilitate a herd of wild elephants in South Africa who were going to be shot because some people thought that these elephants had turned rogue. 

In this book, the author delves into his adventures, heartbreaks and struggles to accomplish this task and ensure a safe haven for these elephants. He works with governments, local communities, private partners and throughout the story has to face several hurdles like dealing with poachers on the reserve and having some deathly close experiences with animals.


Interviewed by - Ashwarya Jha

Post a comment

0 Comments