Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Supriya nurtured big dreams. She wanted to contribute to society and make a difference. She was also fond of photography from a young age but it was limited to clicking pictures on her smartphone. After completing her graduation in Indore, she stayed back in the city to study further. In the meantime, she was inspired to take her ‘hobby’ to the next level. Supriya enrolled in a photography course. She brought a camera from home that was used at all family functions. Though it wasn’t the ideal pick for that course, there was no stopping her!
The course included site visits for photography, one of which was visiting a zoo. Supriya felt uncomfortable clicking pictures of caged animals. She became curious to know how they’d behave in their natural habitat. There was an urge to see them free, away from the prying eyes of humans. She felt inclined towards becoming a wildlife photographer. She had never thought of it and she just didn’t know how to be one! She wrote to many wildlife photographers but with countless messages inundating their inboxes every day, her ‘DMs’ were never seen and responded to. With no leads, she fell back to her routine once the course was over.
Hi flamingos, bye fears
While studying, Supriya took note of all places in India that offered exotic views and unforgettable experiences. She visited the Valley of Flowers and was mesmerized by nature’s bounty.
She realized that traveling could be the best way to hone her skills in photography and satiate her desire to explore India’s wildlife. She searched for wildlife photography workshops but the fee was outside the scope of her ‘pocket money’. In 2019, inspired by a workshop itinerary, Supriya planned a budget-friendly solo trip to the Little Rann of Kutch.
As the night fell upon the desolate resort at Kutch, a fear gripped Supriya. She stayed up all night only to find out that all other bookings were canceled and she was going to be alone on a safari trip through the vast, barren land of Kutch! At the break of dawn, she was scared to travel with a stranger in the driving seat and wondered if she made the right decision.
The driver belonged to a local tribe and spoke of his experiences with famous wildlife photographers who had traveled with him. He was humble and wise. Supriya was surprised at his in-depth knowledge of photography. Slowly, her fears disappeared as they drove past quaint villages and stopped by a colony of flamingos. With his advice on camera settings and the right background, Supriya photographed the migratory birds for two days. A trip that started with fear, ended in delight. She realized that embracing art meant letting go of fears and judgments.
Into the wild, and around
With new-found confidence, Supriya took solo trips with a purpose. She visited the National Parks in Kaziranga, Tadoba and Bandhavgarh, capturing rare moments and encounters with the wild.
During the nationwide lock down, Supriya was in her hometown. With no scope to travel, she began watching the live safari telecast from the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. She missed her travels and photography. That's when Supriya's mother asked her to explore the nearby villages. She loved the idea! Planning a schedule that wouldn’t break the lock down protocols, Supriya started her day at 3 am to return home before sunrise. Her father and brother took turns driving her around, exploring the countryside on a ‘scooty’!
Discovery, Realization, Transformation
Supriya was awed by the beauty of the rural terrain. She observed a bird for 21 days and photographed its activities.
She understood that to become a wildlife photographer, one can start from anywhere. She also realized that wildlife photography had transformed her into a better individual. Every snapshot was a lesson in patience and discipline. They had a positive influence on her thoughts and life. Her explorations were pivotal to her empowerment and self-discovery. It helped Supriya overcome biased judgments, societal anxieties and unnecessary suspicions.
Heart in the right place
As a wildlife photographer, Supriya considers it her duty to spread a social message through her photographs. She talks about wildlife conservation and sensitizes people to respect their habitats, just like we protect our families and homes. Capturing images of wild animals isn’t just a technical maneuver. It involves ethics and emotions. She insists on keeping forests and reserves clean and not disturbing animals when it's their time to rest.
Supriya’s sincerity and work have earned her great recognition. She was featured in the special issue of ‘The National Geographic Traveller (India)’ magazine on Women’s Day, an International Annual Photography Magazine ‘The Light Down’, and many others. She was also awarded the 'Photographer of the Year' award in 2020 by ‘Explore Wild India’ Magazine.
Supriya says that to achieve anything and arrive anywhere in life, it is important to ask questions and seek answers. She also says that to inspire or bring a change, one doesn’t have to be rich or famous.
If we do what we love and do it with sincerity, we will eventually bring a change and be an inspiration. She once met a young CISF personnel at the airport security who identified her as a wildlife photographer by her camera and its accessories. He confided that he also wanted to be a wildlife photographer. But to sustain his family, he picked a job. However, he was sure that he’d spring back into the wild, sooner or later. His conviction moved Supriya. It’s moments, conversations and experiences like these that fill her with gratitude for life. She is young and full of hope. For Supriya Harindrawar, a middle-class girl from Chhapara, the world is her oyster.