Former fighter pilot zooms in on photography

Rao. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha

Kalimpong, Aug. 26: Fifty-six-year-old Praful Rao has flown fighter planes in another lifetime, but now he is flying high as a photographer.

Penguin India recently bought three of Rao’s photographs for use on the jackets of the forthcoming titles of author Ruskin Bond. Rao was making waves even before that. All the eight photographs he had put up at a media show in Darjeeling in early June were bought before the organisers could say Praful.

A resident of Tirpai here and an alumni of Dr Graham’s Homes and St Joseph’s College, North Point, Rao was a keen photographer right from his teens. However, it is only after his voluntary retirement from the air force as a wing commander in 1997 that he was really able to indulge in his passion. And the advent of digital camera helped, says Rao.

The information revolution gave Rao the opportunity to use the Internet as a platform to showcase his talent. His wonderfully designed website, — courtesy his German friend, Frank Mueller — features most of his works. Surfing through the images, it is clear that Rao has managed to capture the different facets of the hills, from its people to the landscape, not as a charmed intruder, but with a sensibility of a person who belongs to the place.

One of Rao’s photographs that has been selected by Penguin India

“There is an intuitive understanding of the hills in every photo,” reads a message in the guestbook on his website.

Rao’s big dream now is to hold a solo exhibition of his works in a major gallery in a metropolis. “Some months ago, I was at the Photographic Institute in Delhi which allows photographers to use its gallery to host exhibitions. However, the cost of putting up a 40-photograph show there is beyond my means. Nevertheless, I remain an optimist,” says Rao.

As a teenager in the Sixties, Rao began taking photographs with a box camera. Today he uses a Canon 400D, a digital single-lens reflex camera.

“In the analogue age, our works were dependent on studio hands. Today, my computer is my studio, and it is a big help,” he says.

Rao makes it a point to acknowledge wife Asha for being a tremendous help, even allowing him to shoot in the jungles of the hills he so dearly loves despite being concerned about his safety. “I can’t help being amazed by this woman. She has been a pillar of strength throughout,” he concluded.

3 thoughts on “Former fighter pilot zooms in on photography

  1. Eleanor Basanti Mazzucco

    I have the pleasure of seeing his beautiful photographs on his website and I am his admirer and a fan.The quality of his photographs is amazing, he has captured the essence and soul of his beloved hills with a sensitivity of a true artist.
    Thank you Praful for presenting to the world the most beautiful and magical sights of my Kalimpong.


  2. kiran Rizal

    Thats a good news for Kalimpong people to have a budding photographer like Mr.Rao.CONGRATULATIONS for selecting your photograph by Penguin Pulishers.Keep it up!


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