“Good stories are never found in the comforts of your home, they will always be found in the most unexpected, remote and extreme places.”
Science filmmaker and photographer Rakesh Rao uses the power of visual storytelling to capture the world of science. His curiosity has taken him beyond the known frontiers to document the three Cryospheric polar regions (Arctic, Antarctic, and the Himalayas). With a keen eye for capturing intricate details, he has fostered not just stories on science, but also conversations around climate change.
As part of our Storyteller Series, we spoke to Rakesh on the world of storytelling in science, the magic of visual documentation and surviving extreme expeditions.
What do you want to convey through your images?
I always found photography and films to be the best tool for any sort of communication, especially when it comes to science and climate change. My efforts over the decade has been to document scientists working on major national and international projects covering extreme environments on this planet. My work is primarily focused on two things - climate change related issues and documenting scientists in extreme environments.
Telling stories through the medium of films and photographs brings a layer of visual dimension.
What is required for planning such extreme expeditions?
Planning any extreme expedition is a challenge. From your photography to filmmaking gear, which has to be taken in multiples, one needs to plan to survive these extreme places. So packing is key. One needs to ensure that they should carry the smallest of the tools to heavy reliable gear. Staying in hostile and remote areas, where the closest civilization could be 6000 kms away, you need to ensure that every small detail is researched, planned and transported safely.
As a storyteller, what do you look for, when it comes to highlighting the narrative?
Telling stories is a great way to share an immersive experience, and when you do it through the medium of films and photographs, it brings a layer of visual dimension. Apart from the science documentation, I have always tried to tell my stories with the human angle to it, and that makes it even more challenging at times. Through my stories, I have also tried to address the notion that Indian scientists are always stuck in their labs, wearing white lab coats, conducting experiments or solving equations. In reality, they are some of the coolest people, crazy adventurous, surviving extreme temperatures, winds, high altitude and isolation, all of this to generate important scientific data.
Staying in hostile and remote areas, where the closest civilization could be 6000 kms away, you need to ensure every small detail is researched and planned.
Any suggestions for future leaders/storytellers?
"Storytelling is an art, and also a fun way to share your experience. All I would like to say to future leaders is to look for stories that would create impact and raise awareness on critical issues. Immerse in small details, that can help tell a larger story. And just be true to the story!
Remember good stories are never found in the comforts of your home, it will always be found in the most unexpected, remote and extreme places. So gear up and travel, meet people, hear their stories. And make it your own."
A Photographer/Filmmaker and science enthusiast, Rakesh Rao excels in capturing scientific expeditions and documenting research through photography and film. His unique work has led him to the Arctic, Antarctic, and Himalayas, making him one of the few documentary filmmakers to cover all three Cryospheric regions. He achieved acclaim with his film “The Climate Challenge,” which won the Best Science Film award at both the International Science Film Festival of India and the 10th National Science Film Festival, along with other technical accolades. His portfolio includes significant projects like the official teaser for ISRO's Chandrayaan 2 and the Koyna Deep bore Drilling Project. His work features in top publications like
National Geographic Travelers and Smart Photography. Beyond documentation, he is dedicated to climate change awareness and promoting science through films and photography in educational and public forums nationwide.