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Conservation and Society
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Conservation and Society
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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 633-634

M. Krishnan: Eye in the Jungle, Photographs and Writings

Wildlife Conservation Society - India Program, 294, Canara Bank Layout, Bangalore 560 097, India

Correspondence Address:
Ajith Kumar
Wildlife Conservation Society - India Program, 294, Canara Bank Layout, Bangalore 560 097
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Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009

How to cite this article:
Kumar A. M. Krishnan: Eye in the Jungle, Photographs and Writings. Conservat Soc 2006;4:633-4

How to cite this URL:
Kumar A. M. Krishnan: Eye in the Jungle, Photographs and Writings. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2006 [cited 2022 Jan 24];4:633-4. Available from: https://www.conservationandsociety.org.in//text.asp?2006/4/4/633/55807

Ashish and Shanti Chandola with T.N.A. Perumal, M. Krishnan: Eye in the Jungle, Photographs and Writings, Universities Press, 2006, 128 pages, Rs 1500, ISBN: 81-7371-554-8.

M. Krishnan's name evokes several images in the mind of an Indian wildlifer. The first one, of course, is that of animals in black and white. Images of animals and forests, beautifully spun with words, are another one. Occasionally one also recalls the image of a recluse, happy with tinkering with his camera, taking pictures of animals, and making prints in a dark room, shying away from awards and the all important memberships in committees! Those who knew him personally or even met him a few times, have a few images of calculated arrogance directed at bureaucrats, and aimed to achieve specific goals. The 'Eye in the Jungle' brings together a set of writings and photographs, which allow us to recall those images vividly.

From Ramchandra Guha's biographical sketch we get a glimpse into M.Krishnan's life before his foray into nature and wildlife, as well as how his writing evolved with time. The ferocity of his commitment, to which Guha refers, is revealed in the refusal to budge: from black and white photography, from the almost self-manufactured camera ('Superponderosa' as Krishnan himself calls it in 'The Fine Art of Photography'); from techniques of printing (as described by T.N.A. Perumal, his lifetime associate); and from even punctuations in the text that he had drafted. ('If I had known that you were going to edit my text, I would never have sent the article to you.' - this was his response when a copy editor made a few changes to an article called 'Musth' that he had written on the occasion of the inauguration of Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History). When we read Guha, Perumal and Krishnan himself, we begin to wonder whether his primary interest was in the camera, in photography or in photography done in a certain way. Read this, for example: 'However, if you have any flair for photography, you will think out additions and alterations to improve the efficiency of your camera, and then have these effected by the professional. That, believe me, is the most satisfying and exciting part of photography, and there is no end to it. As you go with your alterations, fresh ideas will occur to you, and then all you have to do is to scrap the earlier fittings and install the new ones.' ('The Fine Art of Photography' c.1960, p,22).

While Krishnan held on to his 'superponderosa', black and white medium, and the self-improvised printing technique for nearly four decades, his photographs and nature of writing changed, reflecting drastic changes in the wildlife scene that he had to sadly witness. For example, Ramchandra Guha finds Krishnan's writings to be devoid of reference to human or cultural context in the latter part of career, as forests and wildlife decimated all around him in the 1960's and 70's. Herein probably lies the best value of M.Krishnan's writings and photographs - as a chronicle of change in the wildlife scene, and there were lots of it, in the second half of 20th Century.

'Nil Bastardum Carborundum' ('Don't let the bastards grind you down!')! I was surprised to read in Ashish and Shanthi Chandola's introduction that this was stenciled on all his diaries! This is an advice that he himself followed, and gave others as well. In 1983 or so while returning from two days of not-so successful attempt to photograph the lion-tailed macaque (the photograph on page 90 of this book is that of a captive animal), he asked for my address. When I gave it, he said 'Write Ajith Kumar M.Sc; otherwise they (meaning the Administration) would put you down'.

'Eye in the Jungle' is a book with which the older generation of wildlifers, like me, can sit back, recall and reminisce. For the others, this book is a window into photography, writings and life of one of greatest naturalists that India has produced.


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