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The Nature inFocus festival is back, with a focus on the environment

The festival, which was conceived in 2014 with a focus on wildlife photography, has now been re-envisioned as a more holistic one

Visitors at the Nature inFocus photography exhibition in 2019, when the festival last took place

By Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran

LAST PUBLISHED 23.07.2023  |  12:00 PM IST

Some of the country's top names in the environmental conservation space will be getting together with nature enthusiasts at the Nature inFocus Festival and Awards 2023, to be held in Bengaluru from 28 to 30 July. Returning after a gap of three years, largely owing to the pandemic, the festival offers an interesting mix of talks, panel discussions, film screenings and a wildlife photography exhibition. 

The festival, which was conceived in 2014 with a focus on wildlife photography, has now been re-envisioned as a more holistic one. “When we started the festival many years ago, environment and conservation were not the primary focus, photography was. We then expanded the festival's ambit to include filmmaking as well, but even before the pandemic, it was becoming clear that the festival, by way of its programming, was gravitating towards environmental issues," says Kalyan Varma, wildlife photographer and filmmaker and co-founder of the festival.


At a time when words like climate apocalypse, climate anxiety and climate doomsday have become a part of our vocabulary, a festival on nature sounds ironic. Is there anything to be celebrated? Festival founders Rohit Varma and Kalyan Varma believe so. “Our festival is definitely all about hope," says Kalyan. Citing the slow yet steady recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, he says, “There was a time when everyone spoke of the ozone hole and how we’d all get skin cancer. But in the span of the last two or three decades, we’ve seen CFCs being banned, which has now resulted in the ozone layer’s recovery. So, here in Nature inFocus, we see hope. We believe that if we all collectively take the right actions, we can possibly reverse climate change. The whole point of our festival is to find solutions for climate change and other environmental issues."

Revealing the theme of the festival as Time for Change, the organisers noted that it is an attempt to put the focus on the positive, affirmative work being done by environmental activists, scientists, conservationists and their ilk. “Yes, we are aware that there are environmental problems but there is a lot of good work happening as well. In the festival, we want to showcase the people who are doing this work. The hope is that it will inspire the rest of us to think and believe that each one of us can make change happen," says Rohit. 

Staying true to the theme are panel discussions such as ‘50 years of Project Tiger — Past, Present and the Future’; ‘The role of a Philanthropist in Conservation’; and ‘A Sustainable Lifestyle in the Anthropocene — Is it Even Possible?’ The list of headline speakers for the event is a mix of of Indian and international conservation experts, activists, and even entrepreneurs who are doing their bit for nature’s cause.

The names include Vance G Martin, President, Wilderness Foundation and Global Founder / Co-Chair, Wilderness Specialist Group (IUCN); wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee; composter and urban farmer Vani Murthy; environmental activist and founder of Sanctuary Nature Foundation Bittu Sahgal; conservation zoologist and tiger expert Ullas Karanth; water activist and educator Vishwanath Srikantaiah; actor and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza; and Nitin Kamath, co-founder & CEO of Zerodha and founding director of Rainmatter Foundation.

Partnering with Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Another highlight is Nature inFocus’ partnership with Natural History Museum, London’s, renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY), the annual international wildlife photography competition and touring exhibition staged by the London-based museum. It’s a first for the festival with WPY presenting a showcase of young natural history photographers.

About how the collaboration came to be, Rohit says, “Natural History Museum runs the largest photography contest in the world. We run the annual Nature inFocus Photography and Film Awards. So we reached out to them and discussed how two photography contests could collaborate for a common objective: that of bringing major environmental issues to the public domain via visual media." 


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“Wildlife and conservation photography is a celebration of the natural world and a powerful call to take action to protect it. Nature inFocus offers a brilliant opportunity for visual storytellers to come together and connect," WPY’s competition manager Gemma Ward said. Ward will be giving a talk on 29 July on ‘Inspiring young minds and instilling a love for the natural world’.

The Nature inFocus Film and Photography awards will be held on 28 and 29 July respectively. Indian rock music veterans Indian Ocean will perform on 29 July. Tickets available on festival.natureinfocus.in