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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Great M. Krishnan

WINDOW TO THE JUNGLE: M. Krishnan’s photography is as acclaimed as are his writings. Photo: M. Krishnan

The Hindu recently published an op-ed celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the great M. Krishnan, the famous Indian wildlife photographer.

M. Krishnan, often pronounced "Yem" Krishnan in South India, was a name I heard frequently there in the 80s and 90s. 

I encountered Krishnan's articles and stunning black and white photos in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 

One of my Indian mentors, the late Dr. V. Krishnamurthy knew Krishnan.

Doc was a Forest Veterinary Surgeon, or elephant vet, for the Tamilnadu Forest Department, and the photographer sometimes leaned on "Doc" for information on the whereabouts of the wild herds.

Dr. V. Krishnamurthy, affectionately known as "Doc" or "Dr. K". 

I used to ask Doc about Krishnan, but I never learned that much, because the mention of Krishnan's name immediately triggered an embarrassing memory from a South Indian prep school for girls.

It was there that Doc was entertaining questions after his lecture about working elephants when the school mistress asked if he was familiar with the photography of the famous wildlife photographer, M. Krishnan.
"Of course, I know him well." said Doc, "A very fine man. And his photos, my Gawd!"
"And did you know," he continued, "that his wife is very helpful in the darkroom?"
Much to Doc's chagrin, the school mistress replied with great composure,
"Dr. Krishnamurthy, all good Indian wives are expected to be helpful in the dark room". 
Doc always ended the story in wild laughter:

"And you won't believe it! Those schoolgirls had a hearty laugh at my expense."

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Many thanks to James Zacharias, the shola-rover of the Western Ghats, for sending me the article in The Hindu


Anonymous said...

M. Krishnan was one of the most interesting people I knew when I was working in India. I visited him a number of times at his house in Madras. He was a stickler on his photos and prided himself on never taking captive shots. I remember the time I visited and his living room was flooded. I think he said something about his poor wife, because he spent all his money on lenses and not on fixing the roof.

I was going to write a proposal to study elephants at Periyar, and he told me of a time an elephant was stalking him. He moved away up the hill and watched the elephant carefully sniffing around in his footprints one at a time. He also told me about how he got some of his tiger shots. While I was there he was doing research on a two part study of the protected areas, and it was eventually published in the Bombay Natural History Journal.

I regret I never kept up with him. Thought of writing, but an Indian I met at a conference told me he had died a year before.


Finny Forever said...

IS it true he turned down an invitation from the Smithsonian?

Camera Trap Codger said...

Never heard that, but it's possible.