Arati Kumar-Rao is an exceptional National Geographic Explorer, independent environmental photographer, writer, and artist dedicated to documenting the slow violence of ecological degradation. With unwavering passion, she traverses the South Asian subcontinent, embarking on captivating journeys that span seasons and sometimes years. Through her profound storytelling, Arati chronicles the ever-changing landscapes, climate, and their profound impact on livelihoods and biodiversity in South Asia.
Arati's profound impact is not confined to her lens or pen; she employs a multidimensional approach, utilising the power of photos, long form narratives, and art to communicate her insights. Recently, she unveiled her debut book, "Marginlands: Indian Landscapes On The Brink," a poignant exploration now available in bookstores across India and on Amazon.
Currently, Arati is engaged in a significant undertaking as she explores forced human migration in India, supported by a prestigious National Geographic grant. Her remarkable body of work has garnered recognition and has been featured in esteemed publications such as The National Geographic Magazine, Emergence Magazine, The Hindu, #Dysturb, The Guardian, BBC Outside Source, Hindustan Times, Mint, and other reputable outlets. Additionally, her artistic endeavours have been exhibited both in India and internationally, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.
When not immersed in her assignments, Arati finds solace and inspiration in the Western Ghats and Bangalore, where she cherishes being a loving mother to three rescued cats.
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Who is Arati?
Being based in Bangalore when not travelling
Her role as an environmental chronicler
Being a slow journalist or a slow storyteller
The types of story she tells
Her passion for photography and art
The tools she uses to tell the story
Working in the corporate world and making the decision to leave her job (2013) and start telling environmental stories
Her early years growing up and spending time in nature
Being inspired by the National Geographic Magazine
Wanting to tell stories of the land by walking
Making the transition from the corporate world to following her passion for storytelling
The practical steps involved
2 pivotal moments in her life
Studying for a Masters in Physical and working in a lab and deciding it wasn’t the right job for her
Having to choose between the Arts and the Sciences
Moving back to India and working with Intel doing Market Research
Falling ill with Typhoid in her 30s and starting to reflect on her life and thinking about what she really wanted to do
Needing to make new connections and build new networks
Slowly starting to find her way and the power of social media to publish stories
Slow story telling verses the speed of the internet
Needing to upskill in photography, writing and art
Taking out personal loads and writing for grants
Getting the grant from National Geographic to study forced Human Migration across India due to environmental degradation
Doing a transect walk from the most easterly point of India to the most Westerly point.
Planning and starting a story - what that looks like
Following the threads and seeing where it leads
Knowing when you are on the right path?
Not finding any path to be wrong - there is always something to learn
Taking a pause to reflect on the information that’s been gathered
Dealing with dead ends and moving on
Her first time in Bangladesh
The speed and impact of climate change
Why it’s important to listen to the local geography’s
Sounds in storytelling - Soundscapes
Recording a sound signature throughout the journey
Paul Salopek’s - Out of Eden Walk
Art as part of the storytelling
Wanting to train herself to pay attention to detail
How to connect with Arati on the social media platforms
Final words of advice for other women to follow their passions
Why it’s important for women to speak up
The stories that are in your backyard
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ~ Mary Oliver
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