Meet Aishwarya Sridhar, the First Indian Woman to Bag the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award


Meet Aishwarya Sridhar, the First Indian Woman to Bag the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The pandemic has been a bearer of a lot of bad news. However, in a moment of pride for the country, Aishwarya Sridhar became the first Indian woman to win the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award at its 56th edition held in London on Tuesday. Sridhar is the first woman from India, and at 23, the youngest to have won this prestigious award in her category.

The announcement was made at the British Natural History Museum, where Sridhar won among 50,000 entries from over 80 countries in the world. Environmentalist and photographer Aishwarya Sridhar and wildlife photographer Nayan Khanolkar from India were two out of the 100 that won.

Sridhar’s photograph (below) of fireflies against star trails, taken at Bhandardara in Maharashtra, won her the “Highly Commended Award” in the behaviour-invertebrate category. The image is named Lights of passion and was captured using one of Canon’s premium DSLRs — EOS-1DX Mark II.

“A big moment for India and for me as a young wildlife photographer. Being the first and youngest girl to win this award from India in the adult category, it’s a huge honour for me to receive this award!” Sridhar, who lives in Panvel, near Mumbai.

The photograph will be part of an exhibition at the Natural History Museum and be part of a touring exhibition. “Fireflies get active during a short pre-monsoon period and that was the time I clicked this image. After trekking for an hour, I came across this tree which was lit with fireflies under the starlit sky; it felt like a magical world,” she said.

As a conservationist, Aishwarya Sridhar has long been fighting to save the wetlands of Panje near Uran from environmental destruction. She has tracked Tadoba’s famous tigress Maya for six years and has made a film on her, according to Mumbai Mirror. Apart from being a filmmaker, she is also a writer. Her documentary “Queen of Taru” has been the winner at the 9th Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York.

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Sridhar, in a way, has inherited her passion for the wild from her father, who is a naturalist. She started clicking pictures during the frequent treks with her father and at 14, even went on to win Sanctuary Asia young naturalist award. She has come a long way since then.

City-based naturalist and conservationist Sunjoy Monga, who received the main award in 1991 and special category awards in other years, said, “This is a well-deserved award, encouraging and inspiring for budding photographers and environmentalists.”

One hopes Aishwarya Sridhar’s award victory will draw more attention toward the pressing environmental problems that she has been passionately talking about, and sharing with all of us through stunning photographs.