What I learnt from Jayanth Sharma

Disclaimer: All the images included here are the property of Jayanth Sharma. I have included them only for educational purposes.

In my photography journey, I study the work of others. I analyse how they composed their images to adopt techniques and concepts I resonate with. One photographer who has recently caught my eye is Jayanth Sharma.

Jayanth Sharma is from Mysore, a small city in Karnataka, India. He is a Sony Ambassador and is the CEO of Toehold, a photography and travel company based out of Bangalore. His work has been featured in many magazines, winning several awards. He has risen to one of the top wildlife photographers in the country.

This is one of Jayanth Sharma’s famous images of a polar bear. Note how he includes the entire surroundings to allow us, the viewer, to understand the environment the animal lives in.

Now he shoots in various methods, but I notice one characteristic that unites his wildlife photography—context.

Unlike most wildlife photographers of our time, Jayanth doesn’t strive to fill the frame with his subject. He zooms out and captures its surrounding environment. In this manner, he provides the viewer with the animal’s context, the area in which it resides. This allows them to better appreciate the creature’s living conditions.

We live in the age of telephoto lenses. Most wildlife photographers whip out huge 600mm lenses, filling the frame with their subject with an out-of-focus background. But while it can be momentarily pleasing, such shots soon appear generic and repetitive. There is little scope for creative growth with such a technique.

Zooming out, and getting the bigger picture, provides us with an antidote to such mediocrity. Jayanth’s images are a testament to this maxim. In a podcast with “Shooting it RAW”, he talks about the story that made him take such an approach.

One day, Jayanth was driving with a scientist who had asked him what he thought the tiger looked like 500 years ago. Jayanth answered that it would have looked exactly as it does now. So the scientist asked what the tiger would have looked like 1000 years ago, to which Jayanth gave the same answer. This line of questioning continued until the scientist finally said that if the animal has changed for so many years, and will not change for many years, then what is the point of taking its portrait again and again?

This got Jayanth thinking. He realised that while the tiger hasn’t, and will not change, the environment in which is in constant flux. That is why he moved away from traditional portraits and began creating environmental shots.

Early in his journey, Jayanth realised he couldn’t make a living selling his photographs. Back in the day, very few magazines used to pay for photographers. Nowadays, when someone needs an image of an animal, a simple google search will produce a plethora of free options.

So instead, he started a company centred around photography and travel. He began teaching other wildlife photographers how to craft aesthetic images. He recognised there was a need for mentors who could guide beginner photographer’s on their journeys. Now his company Toehold has grown to be an industry leader.

This entrepreneurial mindset of Jayanth’s approach highly impressed me. He found a way to monetise his passion for nature. It is one thing to have a passion for something. It is quite another to make a living off of it.

When researching him, I came across a thought-provoking statement he made. He doesn’t necessarily feel innately passionate about the medium of photography. For him, photography is simply a means for him to showcase his love for nature. His adoration for the natural world is the driving force behind his photography.

Jayanth’s goal is to inspire others to love nature through his imagery. He feels those who want to save the natural world must have an innate drive. They must be intrinsically motivated. Enter this space only if you have a deep-seated love for nature.

He cautions social media driven wildlife photographers, who obsess over likes and followers. He professes that a large following is useless unless you have a product to market to them. For those who don’t, this pursuit is a mere status game with no end.

I highly resonate with his message. Getting caught up in the rat race for Instagram likes will ultimately sadden you and dilute your creativity.

Jayanth Sharma is a skilled photographer and entrepreneur. I strongly recommend you check out his work. The images included here are a small representation of his work.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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