“It takes another while to sense a photograph inside a normal spectacle. A plain visual of nature is multi-layered in itself. You may choose from it – a subject that’s entirely yours.” Well, that might sound straight out of a textbook on photography. But no, those words of wisdom were by a humble Higher Secondary School teacher and singer, who also happens to be a photographer.
For Rajendran, music is his medium and photography, his message. Born to a family of musicians, this 38-year-old fell in love with photography just six years ago but he can give renowned macro photographers a run for their money.
“Although there were several instances worth capturing in and around my home, I never knew how to save those moments through photography. It was during my undergraduate days that I drew inspiration from my best friend, Muhammed, and started clicking pictures with his professional camera. It took me more than five years after that to own a camera,” he says.
Rajendran believes that there are several hidden aspects in our immediate surroundings. For him, the love of photography is courtesy of his love of nature.
Impressed by the finest details of everything he saw in his courtyard, Rajendran started admiring the world of physiognomy he discovered in the minuscule. The Sanskrit teacher was drawn to microscope slides in no time and the world of insects soon became his muse.
A staunch admirer of nature, Rajendran spends his free time roving in the jungles of Western Ghats with his journalist friend Ajay. A couple of years ago, when the two ascended Athirappilly range of forests during a monsoon season, elephants engulfed the patch of grasslands they stood in.
But without panicking, the duo remained at their spots and managed to get some incredible shots of a newborn baby elephant and a feeding mother.
“The mother elephant extended her trunk towards us every time a clicking sound was heard. We never moved from our position and made the most out of that breath-taking moment,” his eyes shine with pride as he describes the experience.
“Ajay clicked a picture that closely resembled the logo of Malayala Manorama. The daily published his picture with credits. He is now a journalist with Manorama,” he says.
Most of Rajendran’s works portray the beauty of minute lives and objects in our immediate surroundings, which we miss to notice. Through his detail-oriented macro photography, he presents the world we live in from a very discrete point of view.
Apparently, he does it by reversing his normal lens, as a macro lens would cost double his monthly pay. How else would one manifest his love for the incredible texture of a honey bee's eyes or the furry coat of a caterpillar that resembles an abstract painting.
“For me, nature means an artistic world of colors and light. You may focus your camera at a random plant and find numerous shades of green in it. Each ray of light does a magic of its own kind,” he says.
Rajendran's forest treks enhance his classroom interactions too. The Sanskrit teacher doesn't limit his lecture to Kalidasa or champu, he takes students on nature camps and attempts to build a bond between the young generation and nature.
“I myself have been amazed by the level of maturity and the change in view points each nature camps give to students. I believe that nature has so much left to convey to the humans,” says Rajendran.
Now, the students of Samooham Higher Secondary School wait for their Sanskrit period not to master the philosophical language but to explore photography, nature and forest.
Every photographer cherishes their first professional photograph. Likewise, Rajendran keeps close to his heart, the memory of a picture he took during his first trip to a forest, as part of a photography workshop. “I noticed a beautiful flower abandoned on a milestone. I knelt down and captured the visual in an eye-level, perpendicular angle. The picture resembled the crown of Theyyam and the ambiance created by the endless road and the mile-stone offered it a profound depth.
It was later awarded first prize in a photography contest, which I regard as the very first appreciation I received for my journey with lenses,” he says.
Rajendran is a graduate in music, Sanskrit and history from Sri Sankara University, Kalady and has a post graduate degree in music from School of Drama, Thiruvananthapuram.
He is also lucky to have a very supportive wife, Sreeja, who sold her ornaments to buy her husband a good camera. Rajendran's childhood love, Sreeja is a Harvard-educated classical sitarist who works as a music teacher in a convent school. The couple is blessed with a son named Kannan.