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Meet the Nat Geo Award-winning Indian Photographer Whose Journey Started With an iPhone

Image credits: Varun Aditya / Humans of Bombay | Instagram.

Image credits: Varun Aditya / Humans of Bombay | Instagram.

In a post shared on Humans of Bombay page on Instagram, Varun said in his school days he was called a ‘defaulter’ and a ‘slow learner’, which discouraged his morale.

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Coimbatore-based shutterbug Varun Aditya has left an indelible mark in the photography world. In 2016, the young wildlife snapper bagged Nat Geo’s Nature Photographer of the Year and now he has opened up about his journey to becoming a photographer.

In a post shared on Humans of Bombay page on Instagram, Varun said in his school days he was called a ‘defaulter’ and a ‘slow learner’, which discouraged his morale. However, unfazed by the criticism, Varun said he continued learning arts of photography by opening up his encyclopaedias and would stare at the photographs and picture himself at all those places.

He said his parents didn’t force him to score well in exams. Varun recalled that during a trip to Shimla his father asked him if he wanted to become a “bird watcher”. He further added that ever since he has developed a fascination for travelling and the instinct of photography came in the later phase.

Varun also recounted how he had to struggle to purchase a camera. He said, “It was 2011 and the DSLR camera was a new rage. Back then, I clicked good photos on my iPhone, so the photographer in me was craving to explore. I started skipping meals and saved 300 pounds in 3 months. With a little help from my parents, I bought the camera. The day I got it, I bunked class and visited parks all over London. I felt such a rush–I hardly went to Uni after that”.

Varun said, later on, he started sharing photos on Facebook and the initial likes encouraged him to take a voyage into the world of photography as he had never been “appreciated”.

Soon after the completion of his MBA, Varun told his parents about his dream of pursuing a career in photography. He said initially parents were hesitant to let me take a plunge into photography as it was an expensive one.

Varun added in 2013 his dream of becoming a shutterbug came true after he won a small Nat Geo contest and went to visit Panama and Costa Rica with American photographer Michael Melford.

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"When I was 12, I couldn't wait to come home from school–being there was painful. I preferred to stare at the photos in my encyclopaedias & picture myself at all those places. It was my escape from a world where I was looked down upon. At school, I was called a ‘Defaulter’ & ‘Slow learner’–it made me under-confident. Those labels followed me through school & college. But my parents never forced me to get X marks. Rather, on a trip to Shimla, dad asked me if I wanted to become a bird watcher. Ever since, I've been hooked onto travelling–photography came in later. It was in 2011 when the DSLR camera was the new rage. I clicked good photos on my iPhone, so I wanted it. I skipped meals, saved 300 pounds & with some help from my parents, I got the camera. That day, I visited parks all over London. I felt such a rush–I hardly went to Uni after that. Then one day, I randomly shared a photo on FB, which got 10 likes! For someone who was never appreciated, those 10 likes meant everything. So I began uploading more. I finished my MBA & told my parents I wanted to pursue photography. They were unsure as it's expensive, but I felt passionately about it & knew I’d find a way. So, I kept at it. In 2013 it paid off when I won a small Nat Geo contest & got to visit Panama with Michael Melford. On the flight back, he said, 'What’s that focus point thing you were talking about?’ I was shocked! A legendary photographer was asking me for notes? After that, my parents really supported me. They took a loan to help me–I’m still repaying them. I also bootstrapped everything–I visited affordable places & travelled the world cheaply. I still remember my trip to Finland. I lived in a cabin of 6 feet & froze in -10 degrees, just to capture a wolf who never came! Still– what an experience! Later in 2016, when I won the Nat Geo Photograph of the Year, I got the confidence to teach. My Instagram account had taken off by then & I landed several projects. For me, it's never been about the money. I just wanted to make the world fall in love with nature the way I had. & looking back, I’m happy I didn’t let those labels define me. Afterall, some birds just aren’t meant to be caged.”

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