Anand Varma, National Geographic photographer

National Geographic photographers lead workshop in India to train upcoming researchers in sharing the story of science through photography

In partnership with the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India, National Geographic photographers helped organize and lead a workshop for early career biologists interested in sharing their work through photography. The Shoot for Science workshop, funded by National Geographic Society and run by science photographers Anand Varma and Prasenjeet Yadav, ran for 8 days at NCBS in February 2017 and brought together a cohort of 16 Indian research fellows, Ph.D. candidates, and post-docs to study the art of storytelling in science.

India is currently undergoing increased investment in science and technology, providing a timely opportunity for scientists to communicate their research not just with the academic world, but with the greater public as well. By reducing focus on standard technical jargon and exploring other forms of communication, scientists can demystify their work for a wider audience and inspire young students to embrace scientific literacy. Photography is unique in its ability to help scientists both collect and communicate their data, and doing so without misrepresenting the scientific process lies at the core of Varma and Yadav’s workshop mission.

Using cameras and other equipment provided by Nikon, the 16 participants worked in groups to develop and create a photo narrative around research done by scientists at NCBS. They learned various techniques in basic photography and controlled lighting, received feedback in photo editing sessions, heard from Nat Geo experts, and gave final presentations after being coached in public speaking. “It was a great learning experience. Starting from how to think of communicating a story to how to use a camera—it was all new to me,” said participant Ipsa Jain, a Ph.D. candidate in cellular biology at the Indian Institute of Sciences.

Varma is a regular contributor to Nat Geo; his work tells the story behind the science of everything from primate behavior and hummingbird biomechanics to amphibian disease and forest ecology. Yadav is a trained molecular ecologist turned science-photographer who combines his research experience and photography skills to tell stories of exploration and conservation. He’s represented by National Geographic Creative and is currently producing a story on how mountains play a role in special evolution in India’s Western Ghats. Together, they hope to create a consortium of scientific storytellers in India and are working to expand the Shoot for Science program across the country in the coming years.