Photography

‘Tales By Light’ is a tribute to the unmatched joys of the still photograph

The six-episode series profiles photographers who go to great lengths to get the perfect shot.

In 2015 Canon Australia partnered with National Geographic to create a six-episode series that focused on photographers who go to great lengths to get the perfect shot. A visual feast, Tales By Light has now been picked up by Netflix, and is available for worldwide streaming.

Each episode is devoted to the work of one photographer, and director Abraham Joffe painstakingly brings to life the ecstasy and disappointment of living in thrall to the still image. The five photographers (Art Wolfe gets two episodes) showcased here are experts with dedicated interests spanning deep ocean and high mountain, with a dash of culture and anthropology thrown in.

Photography has long occupied the nebulous space between art and journalism. But the best photographs reconcile this conflict, both capturing the moment as well as articulating the photographer’s vision. This is perhaps most true in the case of nature photography, where the image derives its power from the rarity of what is on offer.

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Tales By Light.

Episode one of Tales By Light follows Darren Jew, an underwater photographer who dives in the ocean near Tonga to capture humpback whales. We learn that the stunning pictures that adorn the pages of National Geographic can take hours or even days of careful preparation. The water has to be clear and the light has to be just right – but those are just hygiene factors. What should really work is a magical symmetry of motion that will give the picture a pleasing completeness.

The camera follows Jew as he goes deep into the ocean and reverts to the surface again and again, checking his work, repeatedly dissatisfied until, at last, he gets what he has been looking for: a majestic image of a whale and its calf nudging their snout against the water’s surface, their bodies aligned in almost-surreal equilibrium, the light playing enchantingly on their skin.

While the series pays heed to non-nature photographic journeys – there are episodes devoted to adventure sports and the ribald Holi of Varanasi – it is the most captivating when it focuses on man chasing beast.

In the jungles of Uganda, Art Wolfe follows mountain gorillas like a child besotted. In one scene, he is so taken with a cub that he does not notice its mother in the background. She promptly attacks his camera, and the look of fright and foreboding on Wolfe’s face makes for an intense precursor to his breaking into laughter. Sheer television gold!

Apart from the young and daring Krystal Wright, the photographers on Tales By Light are middle-aged men who have witnessed, and heartily welcomed, the rapid changes technology has wrought in their profession. With increased exposure times and the use of digital cameras, more precise and immediately viewable photos are now possible. Landscape photographer Peter Eastway approaches the densely populated penguin colonies in Antarctica without trepidation, safe in the knowledge of the bird’s benign nature and the many tricks his camera can play.

It is hard to pin down Tales By Light. Equal parts documentary and art project, it is a stunning testament to the power of the still image to capture lost and unknown worlds. But the camera can only do so much. The show is ultimately a tribute to the perseverance of the men and women who have spent their lifetime looking for that which hides from plain sight.

Art Wolfe in Tales of Light.
Art Wolfe in Tales of Light.
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.