A Bug’s Life

I photograph insects because they are at risk, and visual recording of our natural world is a key conservation tool.

I grew up in Saranda forests in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India known for its vast forest resources, and have been deeply immersed in nature since childhood. Observing the natural world was an integral part of my daily life and that continues to this day.

The world of insects, however, began attracting me around a decade ago, in 2009, when I was living in Sivasagar, in the northeastern state of Assam. We had a huge garden with lots of blossoms and there was an abundance of butterflies, moths, bees, caterpillars, and other insects. I was mesmerized with their beauty and started recording images. I started reading about them online and chanced upon a few documents from Europe highlighting the importance of insects and the issue of declining insect populations.

As my awareness about the critical role of arthropods (insects, spiders, other tiny organisms) in the ecosystem and their rapid decline grew, I devoted myself to photo documentation of these creatures. The objective was to raise awareness about arthropods and promote their conservation.

Insects are among the most abundant and diverse species on the planet and play key roles in our ecosystems, from pollination of crops and wild plants, to aerating soil, and recycling nutrients. However, several studies in recent years have indicated that the world over, their populations are dwindling. According to the most recent study, published in the journal Science in April, populations of land-based insects, like butterflies, bees, and grasshoppers, are declining by about 9 percent per decade. (Though, on the flip side, freshwater insect populations are increasing by about 11 percent per decade).

“That is extremely serious, over 30 years it means a quarter less insects,” Dr Roel Van Klink, from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, who conducted the study, told BBC News. “And because it’s a mean, there are places where it is much worse than that.”

Knowing that photo documentation of our natural world is a key species conservation tool, I immediately sensed a role and purpose of capturing images of these marvelous creatures. I wanted to document these little beings artistically, revealing their true beauty.

Since then, I have spent years honing my macro photography skills, and observing and understanding insect behavior. In 2018, I formed the alliance, Jeev Paritran (Saving Life-forms in Sanskrit), with the objective of making people aware of the importance of arthropods and work towards their conservation. The alliance is equally committed to documenting the environmental threats and challenges faced by different ecosystems and their inhabitants.

The Jeev Paritran team comprises retired Indian forest department officials, ecologists, water specialists, reptile conservationists, social scientists, agriculturists, educators, wildlife photographers, visual artists, documentary film-makers and IT specialists.

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