Published: 03rd February 2021
You always have to be at the right place in the right distance, says famed wildlife photographer Imthias Kadeer
Imthias Kadeer clicked one of the most iconic wildlife photographs in India 15 years ago. Here is the story behind the picture and how he managed to find the ideal shot
Around 15 years ago, an Indian conservation photographer captured one of the most iconic wildlife stills to ever be shot in the country. Imthias Kadeer captured ‘Jungle Book’ which is the only photograph that has ever been captured of an Indian leopard in the silhouette of the Moon. Having made history in the field, he has gone on to win various awards in photography. Currently, focusing his lens on a whole new medium of documentaries, his eye is always on the next fleeting moment that he wants to freeze in time. We spoke to the photographer about how he discovered his affinity towards photography and the road that has taken him on. Excerpts:
1. How did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?
My dad used to take pictures. It was a very expensive hobby in those days. Now, it’s much more cost-effective, you can just take a picture and delete it without it costing you a penny. In the 2000s, when I started earning for myself, I put up my own little negative lab at home. I have fancied taking pictures and framing them ever since.
2. Tell us about photography as an art. How does your perspective change when you look through the lens?
Photography has always helped me look at life a lot more closely. Everything around you has some kind of beauty to it and you start seeing things that you otherwise tend to miss. What is happening to the world is just unjust and unfair. It is a total mess, to be honest. We are living in a fool’s world where we are killing what helps keep us alive. You start seeing things for what they are. The acts being done to people, trees being chopped, waste being thrown around. You see people and watch them more closely. Looking through a lens means framing a moment. When you start seeing things in a frame, it helps you see life a lot more closer.
AWARD STORY: Kadeer has won the Al Qassimi Award and
The Al Ain Peoples Choice Awards
3. What attracted you to wildlife photography specifically?
I bought myself a good lens with my first earnings when I was a young boy. When other people were buying cars, I was buying lenses. It was always wildlife that fascinated me. It progressed to wanting to see more more of the world around me. So I started framing portraits of people whenever I travelled. And it began from there.
4. What was the story behind the leopard picture?
I loved shooting owls at night. So every time there was a full Moon, I used to head out into the areas where there were owls. I used to sit and wait. You always have to be at the right place in the right distance and the Moon has to rise in the right place. A lot of things have to come together. I was at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Everyone who came with me spotted tigers and I was the only one who couldn’t spot a single one. I kept extending my days and eventually I was running out of money and needed to go back.
I thought I was just unlucky. I was leaving the park when I spotted the leopard perched on the side of a mountain. Everyone who was with me thought I was hallucinating. But we checked with our binoculars and we saw that it was true. I took my camera and ran back, asking my friend to distract the security. I ran in, found the leopard and waited for the Moon to rise. The Moon rose and I got three shots of the Indian leopard in the silhouette of the Moon. Nobody’s got another one. It’s an amazing thing to be lucky enough to be there and you’ve got to wade through the risk of getting there.
5. What has been some of your more recent work?
I’m currently working on a documentary in Morocco. It is a lifestyle documentary about the local food and people. Last year, I lived in Egypt for four months working with Abu Dhabi TV. This was also a lifestyle documentary about the music, art and food. I got to see a lot of interesting new traditions, art, instruments and local food. I was supposed to visit 22 countries last year but Corona changed everything!