NRI Voice: An Eye for the Moment

Nat Geo Nature Photographer of Year Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan on his life in Singapore, his love for the camera and how he captured the award-winning image of an orangutan crossing a river in Borneo.


Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan, a Singapore-based nature photographer, was announced as the winner of the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year earlier this month. The contest had over 11,000 photo submissions under four categories — Wildlife, Landscapes, Aerials and Underwater. The winning photograph, which features a male orangutan looking from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, will be published in an upcoming issue of the National Geographic magazine. It also won the first place in the wildlife category.

The National Geographic shared the image on their Instagram account, saying: “Our judges were impressed by how the poignant image spoke to the impact deforestation is having on the habitat of this critically endangered species.”

Bojan tells Little India about his life in Singapore, and his winning the Nat Geo title:

Love for Photography

I took up photography seriously only about four years ago though I have been practising it for around 10 years. Over the last two years, I have been travelling extensively around South East Asia, Africa and India, working on a photobook that focuses on the highly endangered primates across Asia and my experience of seeing them in the wild.

I started the journey after I saw these primates at Singapore Zoo – one of the best zoos in the world! I was just blown away by what I saw. These animals are very hard to find and very few numbers exist in the wild.

Getting that Perfect Shot

I had researched areas where orangutans live in Asia and went there specifically to observe and photograph them. We were in a houseboat on the Sekoyner river at Kalimantan in Indonesia, looking for orangutans when my friend Arbain, a conservationist and I heard from a local ranger that this particular orangutan was seen further down the river. So we changed boats and traveled about 40 miles to get to his habitat. After two days of waiting and watching, we were able to observe him in action.

He was curious, cautious but composed. I was fascinated at the orangutan displaying a willingness to get into water, which is unusual behavior for this species. When photographing wildlife, you look for routines, patterns and behaviors that animals display. Understanding animal psychology gives you thought-provoking pictures.

The orangutans hate water, and the river is known to have crocodiles. I got into the 5-ft water to capture some unique perspectives while Arbain and our boatman kept watch for crocodiles. The orangutan hesitated at first and hid behind a tree to watch what I was doing and then came to check the situation out. When he saw that it was all okay, he got comfortable and then proceeded to cross the river with his arms up in the air. The image was taken when he was checking whether I was still there.

Move to Singapore

I was born in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, and grew up at a place called Aruvankadu. What I miss about it, living in Singapore now, is the abundance of wildlife, the food and mostly family.

I am a hotel management & air travel management graduate. I worked in India, and then followed my wife to Singapore, after quitting my corporate career, when she was asked to move there for work. This was two years ago.

Singapore Sensibilities

Singapore is probably one of the safest places to live — it is clean, efficient and more than anything, I love how much the nation cares for whatever minimal wildlife they have. They make an effort to conserve and protect nature.

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