Aishwarya Sridhar, a wildlife photographer from Panvel, Maharashtra has become the first Indian woman whose photograph has won the 'Highly Commended' award at the 56th Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020.
23-year-old Sridhar's photograph titled 'Lights of Passion' bagged the coveted title at the award show organised by the National History Museum. The announcement of which was made on Tuesday, October 13.
According to reports, it received over 49,000 entries from over 80 countries and only 100 photographs made the cut for the awards.
Sridhar's entry was a photograph of a tree illuminated with fireflies. The fireflies and stars in the sky formed a surreal galaxy around this particular tree.
"It was a dream come true when my name was announced at the virtual awards ceremony on Tuesday night," said an elated Sridhar, reported Mumbai Mirror.
Describing the story behind the iconic photograph, she said, "during a trek last year, I had decided to click fireflies but hadn't planned any particular frame."
She, fortunately, stumbled upon the particular tree but was not satisfied with the capture so she decided to widen the frame and include the stars and the sky to make it look like one entity.
"It's a very short two-week window when one can find fireflies in this area," she added. Her entry 'Lights of Passion' has also found a special place in the 'invertebrate behaviour' category. This category features images revealing the most interesting or memorable behaviour of any of the multitude of smaller animals without a backbone, whether on land, in the air or in water.
The photograph was captured using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark 2 camera which served as ultimate equipment to capture an image in a low light setting with its enhanced light collecting performance.
Sridhar shared that she was introduced to the art of photography when she was 12. When she was handed over the camera for the first time by her father, she started clicking anything and everything under the sun during her forest treks and that's when she realised she wanted to be a wildlife photographer. She wanted to make a difference in the world with her photography.
Sridhar has a list of achievements to her credits, she had won the Sanctuary Asia young naturalist award at the age of 14. Last year, she was conferred with the Princess Diana award which is given to young talented individuals who bring positive change with their contribution to society.
Along with wildlife photography, Sridhar is also a writer and into documentary-making. Her first documentary, "PANJE the Last Wetland", on preserving the wetlands of Panje in Navi Mumbai was reportedly telecasted on DD National and the second "Queen of Taru", a documentary on the royal Bengal tigress Maya was awarded at the 9th Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York.
Her pictures have found a place in leading national and international magazines including BBC Wildlife, Mongabay, Guardian, Sanctuary Asia, Hindustan Times, TOI etc. She has also been a TEDx speaker and is a Global Goodwill Ambassador.
"Initially, I wanted to join the Indian forest service and bring about policy change in wildlife and conservation. As my passion for photography increased, I realised I could also make a difference using media," she said.
Hinting at her future projects, she said that she wants to make a film on the endangered primates of India. Adding, that she had already shot a part of it in the beginning of the year at the Annamalai Tiger Reserve and would be returning to it after the pandemic.
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