Best of INK talks

Kalyan Varma : Free Art is Profitable


Money is like the mother in law that comes with your marriage. You welcome it but don’t really marry for it do you? But what do you do when you have to choose between getting paid for your work and getting known for your work? It is a difficult dilemma for any artist. A choice that might go either very right or very wrong.

Fortunately, for wildlife photographer Kalyan Varma, the choice he made brought about a positive change. He chose ‘reach’ over ‘money’. Imagine clicking pictures in sheer wilderness and then giving them away for free! But Kalyan believes that jungles are like a spiritual experience for him photography is the medium of sharing it with the world. It doesn’t matter if he gets paid for it or not.

But when you give freedom to people, they respect it. Same happened with Kalyan. People picked up his pictures, used them for free but never forgot to give credit. The blockbuster movie ‘Snakes on Plane’ was the turning point for Kalyan’s career. His pictures were used in the DVD cover and he was paid just for keeping them online for free!

The surprises don’t end here. He had put up rare pictures of the wild online. One of them was of the newly discovered and extremely rare species called ‘the Purple Frog’. Because it was free, people used it everywhere. At that time, a documentary on frogs was in pipeline. And he got picked by National Geographic channel and BBC for it, only because of that free picture. It is amazing how free content and freedom of sharing it can pay off in ways more than one and in ways more than what you expect.

The list is long. People have not only blogged and re-blogged his free high resolution pictures, they have also painted it as a subject and made music videos for which he got royalty without asking!

This simple, short talk by a passionate photographer gives two very important lessons that need to be cherished. First – give your content away for free. Getting stuck in copyrights is not worth the time or effort.  Second – relentlessly pursue your passion and let not the pull of money delude you. Do what you do for the sake of the love you have for doing it. Everything else will fall in place!

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This entry was published on July 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm and is filed under Art & Creativity. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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