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     James Whitlow  Delano on water as a photography subject

    FOR someone who has documented environmental issues like Japan’s deadly tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, photos of happy moments may be hard to come by. But for James Whitlow Delano, happiness lies in making a change. “I find an issue that interests me and try to imagine how to visually place the viewer in the lives of the people affected by an environmental challenge—be it deforestation in Borneo or desertification in Mali. I want to create empathy, but the facts must dictate the storyline,” he says, adding that he leaves it up to the viewer to glean a message from his photographs.
    It is advice like this, and much more (be it tips, hands-on training, discussions, etc) that the award-winning reportage photographer will be imparting in his upcoming seven-day workshop on documentary storytelling, at the PondyART festival, at Ousteri Lake, Serenity Beach and Pondicherry Port. “My focus with the participants will be on improvement and effort. I am not aiming to produce a class as that of Raghu Rai’s (acclaimed photojournalist),” he smiles.
    And the theme for this year, Water, is right up his alley. “My relationship with water does not end with the tsunami. I’ve documented desertification on the fringes of China’s Gobi Desert, where sand dunes are bearing down on agricultural land and have encroached the Yellow River,” reveals the 56-year-old, who has been living in Japan for 20 years now.
    Having mostly clicked in black and white, using his Leica M camera, the American confesses that his new acquisition, a Sony RXl Rll, performs better. “Like my Leica, it has a 35 mm lens but made by Zeiss. It has 40 megapixel files and a silent shutter,” he shares, although he admits that an iPhone 6 “has a pretty serious camera, too”. Besides him, there is Senthil Kumaran who will be talking about documentary storytelling, and Umeed Mistry who will demonstrate underwater photography.

    August 28 to September 4. Register for `22,500. Details: pondy
    —Karan Pillai


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