How many people do you know of who left a job at the pinnacle of success to follow their passion? Not many right? As we connected with artists from all over India, we met one such man who is truly an inspiration for us. He is the embodiment of everything that Ivory Imaginations stands for. 44 year old Wildlife Photographer Sudhir Shivaram was on his way to Ranthambore when I spoke to him. His voice had a youthful echo which only deep contentment can bring. “I never attended any workshop to learn photography. I along with a group started a club in my college where I was pursuing Engineering in 1993. We started a photography club there called MAPS (Malnad Amateurs Photography Society) and that’s how my journey as a photographer began” said Sudhir. It is indeed interesting that Sudhir who is a self taught photographer now teaches photography to thousands of students, young and old.
Being an engineering student helped Sudhir understand the functioning of the camera, but he got the eye for good frames when he got exposed to the beautiful landscape of Coorg. “We used to trek a lot in Kumar Parvatha and that’s where my interest in Wildlife began. I often used to borrow a camera from my aunt to photograph the beauty of the place on my trekking trips” he admits. Sudhir’s eye for beautiful frames could not be missed when he started taking photographs and so he became the obvious choice as the official photographer for his college.
After college Sudhir got an opportunity to work in Hewlett-Packard in Bangalore and that’s where he got in touch with people who shared his passion for photography. “My colleagues in HP used to love my photography so they asked me if I would teach them as well. I agreed and decided to teach them photography at a nominal fee of Rs 500 per student. The company management initially opposed the idea since it seemed like a commercial activity to them. Then I spoke with them and told them about my plans” Sudhir recollects. Shivaram had decided to donate all the earnings from the photography classes to various foundations including an organization called Namasanga which was working to preserve the habitat of wild animals. HP agreed to the idea and decided to match Sudhir’s earnings from the classes and donate their share to the cause as well. When you do something that you are naturally talented in success comes with little effort. So from an amateur photographer Sudhir became a photography teacher and soon some students started asking him to give lessons outdoors to learn wildlife photography. This is how Sudhir started organizing Photography Tours.
Students and Photography tours started growing and so did his career as an Engineer. Sudhir had changed companies and was now the Director of an American power conversion corporation. It was becoming exceedingly hard for Sudhir to manage both work & Photography, stress took a toll and Sudhir fell ill. “My wife suggested that I should quit my job and start photography because that is what I love to do. I was skeptical. I did not know whether I would earn as much as I did being a director of a company. But my wife insisted and I understood it was time to follow what my heart truly desired” confesses Shivaram. He decided to work for some more time and save up his earnings, when he saved up enough for two years he walked up to the company head to announce his decision. “My superior said I was wondering what took you so long. You are a great photographer, you should give it your all” recollects Sudhir. These words were like a validation that he was on the right path. At the age of 41 when people usually start planning their retirement Sudhir jumped with both feet into an arena that was full of uncertainity. But optimism and hard work were two traits that never left his side, so work started trickling in and within 4 months Sudhir got both response and confidence to pursue photography as a profession.
Today Sudhir is one of the leading names in Wildlife Photography. He has won many accolades including the 2012 award by Sanctuary Asia for Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Yellow Border award at Worldwide Editorial Awards for the best cover he shot for National Geographic Traveller India magazine.
Sudhir’s photographs capture moments from the wild that will take your breath away. His creative vision of the wild tell us a thousand tales about the level of patience and perseverance Sudhir has to capture these magnificent creatures in their most natural behavior.