The Courage to Begin Your First Conservation Photography Project: An Interview with Carla Rhodes
This story will give you the inspiration and encouragement to overcome any nervousness about starting your next photo project.
What stops you from starting something new?
Is it fear, is it self-consciousness, is it uncertainty about the unknown, is it overwhelm?
There are a lot of things that might hold you back from doing something amazing – but none of those things stand a chance against courage, passion and resolve. Your passion for what it is you deeply want to accomplish through your work overrides your fear of doing that work. It overrides your fear of doing something new. It overrides your fear of judgment. It overrides your fear of unpredictability or uncertainty.
Carla Rhodes discovered this recently when she launched into her very first conservation photography project. The decision changed her life forever.
In this episode, we’re talking with Carla about how her very first conservation photography project took shape, the types of things that she was thinking as she planned it and headed out into the field, and some of the big lessons that she learned as well.
Whether you're brand new to the field or have been working as a conservation photographer for awhile, you're going to find loads of inspiration, encouragement and joy in this interview.
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The Courage to Dive In To Your First Conservation Photography Project: An Interview with Carla Rhodes
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AT JaymiH.com/31
Jaymi Heimbuch: I genuinely do not remember how I met Carla, but I do know when I really became aware of her as just this creative force of nature, and it was when she joined my free Facebook group Conservation Photographers, and then subsequently she became a member of Wild Idea Lab. Naturally, I started to pay a lot more attention to her and her work, but I also started to really follow what it was that she was doing as a conservation photographer. And one of the things that just blew me away was she launched into her very first conservation photography project in a way that I think just not many people do. She decided what it was that she was going to work on, and then she packed her bags and headed to another country for five weeks and just buried herself into the work. And she did this in a way that I think really stands out, because it would be terrifying for a lot of new conservation photographers to dive into their first project in such a big way. And she is definitely just getting going inside of this field.
I think that what she did would amaze a lot of people and scare a lot of mothers, but why I love talking with Carla about her project is that she has a perspective that I think is incredibly important and valuable for everybody working in this field to really consider, and that is that your passion for what it is that you really want to accomplish through your work overrides your fear of doing that work. It overrides your fear of doing something new that you've never done before. It overrides your fear of judgment. It overrides your fear of unpredictability or uncertainty. In other words, Carla cares so much about the species that she wants to document within her first conservation photography project that she pushed aside any of her fears and just embraced courage.
And one of the things that came out of my conversation with her is that she's out in the field doing this and she is thinking, “Hey, what if the worst thing that happens is I learn something? Is that so bad?” Now, in watching Carla head out into the field in this first major endeavor, and just completely embrace the experience, and then come back with some truly incredible imagery, I knew that I wanted to talk with her more about the way that she approaches her work and the thought process behind it. And what's important to know is that Carla is a very unique person, but she's not that unique in that she has some sort of superpower for being courageous. She really purposefully thinks about what it is that she wants to accomplish, and she uses that to go for it. And so I knew that I wanted to bring her on to the podcast and talk about that mindset, because that mindset can be so inspiring and empowering for someone who is witnessing it to take that on for themselves.
So, we are diving into how her very first conservation photography project took shape, the types of things that she was thinking as she planned it and headed out into the field, and some of the big lessons that she learned as well. And I think that what's inside of this interview is going to be inspiring, not only for those of you who are starting your first project and are really trying to build up the courage to fully launch and do it and put yourself out there, but also for those of you who are established conservation photographers because it will remind you of what you can accomplish, and probably what you have accomplished, when you just throw yourself into the work because you care so deeply. And when you put fear aside, and you can act from a place of courage and compassion, the things that you can create and the movements that you can inspire are truly extraordinary. So, let's get into this interview with Carla Rhodes.
Welcome to Impact: The Conservation Photography Podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing, and everything in between, this podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.
JH: Welcome, Carla, to Impact: The Conservation Photography Podcast, and I am so excited that you are coming aboard for an interview because we have had a blast talking in our Facebook group and in Wild Idea Lab about the adventure that you've had and everything that you've learned. And you've been a huge inspiration to me from those conversations, so I'm really excited that you're here and that you're willing to talk about it because I know that you're gonna be an inspiration for everyone who's listening.
Carla Rhodes: Well, hi, and it's an absolute honor to be on your podcast.
JH: Well, let's go ahead and get started with the context about your project. You are a relatively new conservation photographer in that you haven't had a whole lot of experience under your belt, and so you dove into a project full force and basically have come away looking very much like a pro, way experienced conservation photographer. And so I wanna start with the context of how you found that project and how you decided to go so full force into something for the very first time.
CR: That's a great question, and I dove into this project just because I believe in it so much, in every little piece of it. I just found the story fascinating. And so the project is basically on the rarest stork in the world, Greater Adjutant stork. There's estimated to be less than 1200 of these birds left in the world. And the women who are saving them… And I found this project because I was asked to go to India in 2018, to travel in a motorized rickshaw through the Himalayas in India. And I actually said “yes,” 'cause I had always wanted to go, and I survived that journey through some of the highest motorable passes in the world. And I really wanted to go photograph wildlife after that part of my trip.
And during this time, it was in September, so most of the national parks in India were closed. And one of the only ones that was open was in Assam, Manas Park, and so I went. And on the way, traveling back from Manas to Guwahati, which is the gateway to the Northeast India, they call it. I saw a Greater Adjutant stork standing by the side of the road. At the time, I had never seen one of these birds. I didn't even know the name of it, I just knew this bird looked so cool. They're 5 feet tall. They look so rock and roll, they're unbelievable looking. And I asked the person who was driving, “What is that bird?” And he said, “It's a Greater Adjutant stork.” And I asked, “Where can I see more?”
The next day, he took me to see more. And I thought he was gonna take me to a wetland or a forest, and he took me to the Baragaon landfill, which is a sprawling landfill. We're around a big colony of Greater Adjutants, scavengers, and at that moment, my entire life completely did a 360. And it was one of these moments in my life that I look back on, and will my whole life and be like, “My life changed.” Because we pull into this landfill and I see this endangered bird scavenging. Alongside of the bird, there's people scavenging. There's cows, there's wild dogs, and there's trash taller than buildings. And not only that, this landfill is eating a Ramsar-protected wetland. So, at that moment, I just said to myself, this whole time I've been pursuing wildlife photography, I'm like, “My work has to make a difference. I wanna be a wildlife conservation photographer.” I went home with that knowledge and just became obsessed with the story. So, that's the very long answer to that question.
JH: That's an amazing story. That's such a great origin story for this entire project. But for you as well, it's like that big defining moment where you know that what you thought might have been a hobby or something that you do for fun with wildlife photography, you now have this mission for it. You now know that you're gonna do something bigger.
CR: Yeah. I gotta say it completely… I'm getting chills thinking about it, because it's one of the few moments in my life where my whole life changed. And I just became so obsessed with the story in that moment, it moved me to tears. That actually changed my whole view on life, I'm not exaggerating, because there were also… There's people that live in this landfill, and there were kids smiling and playing, and it reminded me of just the resilience of the human spirit as well. It was heartbreaking but inspiring at the same time, and that's really why I became just completely obsessed with this story. People say when you go to India that it changes you, and I thought it was a cliche. I'm pretty cynical and sarcastic, and have a very, what I think, a very good sense of humor, so I just thought, “Oh, that's just such a cliche thing.” But literally the day before I left India, it changed my whole entire life.
JH: Then you came home and you made a move that so many conservation photographers hesitate doing, even when they're really experienced, it's Just like one of those heartbeat moments. And you decided that you're gonna apply for a National Geographic grant for your story. Tell me a little bit about that decision.
CR: Well, I got back from the trip, and I'm recovering and digesting it all, because traveling through the Himalayas in a rickshaw is pretty earth-shattering, changing, so I'm digesting that. And I'm digesting seeing this stork. So, I'm starting to already think… I've been home for a week, I'm like… It's like something grabbed a hold of me by the neck, and it's just like… I just couldn't stop thinking about this bird. It's pretty crazy to talk about it and think about it now, a few years later. And I started to research how will I get back to India, how am I gonna photograph this bird. And I started Googling it. And compared to rhinos and tigers and elephants, and all these endangered animals you hear so much about, the stork is the most endangered bird in the world, and there is very little coverage on it. Not most endangered bird, most endangered stork in the world.
CR: And so I came across a National Geographic Early Career Grant, and I just read through it and I just thought, “This is a really perfect fit for this project.” It was closing in a few weeks. Actually, I'm like, this is way too much to apply for in a few weeks. So, I made it my goal to complete an application for it. I missed two cycles because I didn't have the info I needed, and I kept telling myself to wait, and I'm glad I did wait to apply for it. But I eventually was able to apply for the October 2019 cycle. So, I did, I got the application finished, huge application, to me at least. That's how I did it. I just jumped into it and did it.
JH: That's awesome. And that's one of the reasons why I wanted you on this episode, is because that mindset that, “Well, let's just try this. Let's just… I care about this, so I'm gonna go ahead and take these steps and just see what happens.”
CR: Right. Because I've had a pretty interesting varied life, and what life has taught me is a few things. One of the worst things that can happen if you go for something is someone is gonna tell you, no, they're gonna shut the door in your face or you're gonna fail. But really the worst thing that can happen in life is that… The very worst thing is that you can die, but when you put that up to the level of applying to an application, someone can say, “no.” Saying “no” really pales into comparison on the worst thing that can happen, right? So, that's kind of my mindset with these things. To me, even if someone says “no,” I can learn a lot in the process. You never really know where life is going to take you through these processes. So, that was a big mindset in applying for it. And I also thought… I just believed in the idea so much and I still do that it's a really interesting powerful story. That pushed me forward as well.
JH: And you mentioned to me before that doing that grant application really helped you shape the project itself. What was that like? What about your project ended up coming out of the grant application process?
CR: There were so many things that came out of that process. It basically made me think of a project goal, a way to sum up the project. This grant has so many good things in it that, honestly, when I do another project, I will probably look at their application to help build my project. It helped me create an overall goal. It helped me… Even in this grant, it wants you to lay out your expectations, and the results, all these scientific type of terms that I had to Google as I went. It makes you build a budget. And it also… One of the key parts that it gave me is it asked for a project collaborator. You have to have a project collaborator.
CR: And through that, I found Purnima Devi Barman, who's saving the Greater Adjutant storks and mobilize like an all-women army to save them. So, through applying for the grant, I found Purnima, and I absolutely positively could not have ever done or executed this project without her in giving me access. And it made me research and really understand my subject. I think I was able to get a lot of what I consider good images because I understood my subjects so well. Basically, it gave me a framework. If not, I'm really just an individual stabbing at the dark, trying to figure out how to navigate a project.
JH: That's awesome. I love that you allowed that process to really take shape and figured out what that means, what that planning really means to the project overall. You're talking my language right now, because I'm all about the planning process and laying foundations down, in part not to hold yourself back but to actually help free yourself more because you're better prepared, you're already thinking about things that are gonna end up being problems so that you can face them rather than run into them like a brick wall. When you decided, “Okay, well, I'm going into the field,” what was that part of your process like?
CR: When I said, “I'm going into the field and I'm gonna do it,” it was scary because you don't really know what's going to happen. There's a lot of variables, but because I was able to complete the application, it gave me a lot of confidence because, like you just said, I was able to take control in certain ways. I kind of knew what I wanted to shoot. I had built a relationship with the person that was going to give me access. Getting access was, when you asked that question, was a big key to this project, navigating getting the access.
JH: When you actually hit the field and you're on the ground, you're out photographing, and this is something… You'd seen it before, but for a day. And so now you're actually in the field trying to get images, and you're meeting new people, and you're diving into the situation. You might, in your head, have your shot list and that sort of thing, but you're really going through it for the first time. What were some of the things that were going through your head, whether that was just noticing some of those thoughts that are coming up as someone who's in the field for the first time, working on something that they're passionate about, or some of those thoughts as a photographer trying to capture what you're so passionate about and you have five weeks and potentially that's it for this project?
CR: Well, one of my flaws is that… I guess it would be a flaw, but it's also good. I put an immense amount of pressure on myself, sometimes too much that it can hold me back. One of the hardest things for me was the time limit. And as you know, you can't control wildlife, and you can't control the weather, and you can't control… There are so many variables that you can't control. What was going through my head is this was scary and it was new, I'm not gonna lie. There was a lot of fear there. What helped me overcome all of that though was just believing in this project so much, and just the sense of awe and wonder I had, like just getting off the plane, the whole journey, and meeting someone new. Assam, India is a different part of India than other parts of India. India is very good, there's a specific culture, a specific way of life. And honestly, it's hard to put into words because it was completely overwhelming in so many different ways. There were so many emotions as well.
And seeing these birds, after researching them for such a long time, was amazing, because on the prior trip I had only seen them for 20 minutes or less in this landfill, by the side of the road. It was literally a drive-by. So, to see them in person after all that time was basically, in my head, like seeing a celebrity. I was so excited. Because Purnima took me to a roof in the village where the nesting colony is, and they're flying over your head. It's like pterodactyls. I literally felt like I was watching pterodactyls at one point. It's hard to explain. It was a situation where there were just so many thoughts and feelings, and I'm still processing it. That's kind of a hard question that I'm trying to get through by answering in a very long way, so sorry about that.
JH: Not at all. I think that that's fantastic, because I love that you really highlight that this is something to experience. And it was watching you go through this adventure via Facebook, because you were really amazing about posting all sorts of elements of your adventure on Facebook. I felt like I was living through this with you as I watched your social media updates. And you fully embraced the entire experience. You weren't just there as, “Oh, I'm here as a photographer, I'm here for the stork, that's all I'm gonna focus on.” It seems like you really embraced the entire experience and built in so many elements of culture. And the way that Purnima approaches things, and then the way that you approach things as an American, and as a photographer, and as a wildlife lover. And then the way that the stork approaches things as this is how they're living out their life, even though they're this incredibly rare species. And so what I love about watching your experience as an outsider is that full embrace of fear and challenge and joy and exhilaration and fulfillment and dedication and passion. It's been extraordinary watching you.
CR: Oh, wow, that's so sweet. Thank you. Yeah. I don't even know what to say, 'cause I just respect and love your work so much, so it's so nice to have what I do recognized. Because you don't… When you take on stuff like this, I've seen this in other parts of my life as well, and I think that you'll agree, sometimes when you take on projects, you don't really realize what you're doing at the time. And it's until you're out of it that you're kind of like, “Woah.” Right? Because India, just going to India, is intense, any American will tell you that. And if I thought too much about going, I might have resisted, because it's very, very different from America. It's culturally different. And when I travel, it's very important to me to be aware that I'm an outsider, and to be extremely respectful of other people and the way that they live, and also to learn as much as possible.
And India, the way of life, they're doing so many things that I consider better than the way that Americans do things. And it was wonderful to be in another culture. Purnima let me stay with her in her home, she had never even met me before, and I just can't even explain, I'm trying to explain how amazing that was just to be brought into this world where a lot of Americans never even go. I've met very few Americans that have ever heard of Assam or been, and to be brought into her house was just amazing. So, yeah, the whole experience was just great, and I'm really glad that I pushed myself to go.
JH: Well, with taking that whole embrace of the experience, how did that… How did you really go in and wholeheartedly end up shaping your photography and your project, and what you decided to photograph while you were on the ground?
CR: Something that helped me greatly with that happened, like all things do, a week before that I left… And in this experience, the week before I left, I learned so much that it actually changed my trip. I was asked by smithsonianmagazine.com to go on assignment, and through that, I was thrown into a situation that I had never been thrown into before. Of course, I said yes, but it was my first time going on assignment. And I had to do so many things in a short amount of time that I was able to take those skills that I learned literally a week before the trip and add to my trip. I knew how to build a shot list before that experience, but because I had just done it on assignment for Smithsonian, I was able to take my shot list and organize it in a different way that really, really helped. And it also gave me a little bit of a confidence boost for the trip.
JH: That's amazing. How many people, right before their first really huge conservation photography field excursion, land their first assignment for a major magazine? That's pretty extraordinary stuff.
CR: Yeah. I don't know. I'm just really grateful for that experience, because it gave me a confidence boost to go, to push my India… Basically to push it to a different level. It helped me see it and approach it in a different way. And I really needed to because, going on the India trip, it was amazing, but, yes, it was scary, I wanna be very honest about that. Doing that type of project was scary in a lot of ways, because there is a lot of unknowns, and also because I was self-financing and self-producing it as well.
JH: When you mention the assignment for Smithsonian Magazine changed the way that you designed your shot list for your project, can we get a little nerdy and talk about how exactly that shifted?
CR: I wish I had it in front of me so I could explain it better. Let me think, that's a good question. My way of making a shot list is just basically a huge Google Doc that I'll print out. And with Smithsonian, I guess, being handed a really detailed shot list from a producer, and seeing how they broke it down really, really helped me, because they'd only… It was broken down in a way, of course, by scenario and by location, but also wide shot, medium shot, this and that. And that was really helpful for me because… Okay, so here's an example of the way I looked at it before and after going on assignment. Before the assignment, I had a list that said stuff like, “I wanna get a Greater Adjutant in the village. I wanna get a Greater Adjutant in the landfill. I wanna have the Hargila Army, I wanna show them weaving textiles.” And by going on assignment, I was able to break things down like, “You know what, I wanna get a Greater Adjutant flying. I wanna get a Greater Adjutant next to a human being. I wanna get a close-up of a Greater Adjutant's eyes. I not only wanna show the women weaving, I wanna show them doing X and Y and Z. And then I even pushed it further from what I learned and started to write down, “What feelings do I wanna capture?” Really, really getting in there and really trying to plan out as much as I could shot list-wise.
Of course, when you get there, a lot of things aren't possible but because… I actually looked back on my shot list recently, and I probably got 75% of the shots that I really wanted to get. And I think that's a good accomplishment for me.
JH: Awesome. Thank you so much for those specific examples 'cause I think that's really, really helpful for listeners who maybe are just starting out with the idea of doing a shot list for a project or for a story, and understanding how specificity ends up really, really helping you when you're out in the field and getting those images.
CR: Yeah. I gotta say it really, really helped on future projects. And I would encourage others listening to always make a shot list. Because even if you don't get the shots, it just helps in planning, because there's something about just writing down your ideas. I didn't get a zoomed-in super close shot of a Greater Adjutant's eyes because it's really hard to get that close to them, and I have a 150-600 Sigma lens but… It was cool to visualize that shot, because through that I was able to think of other ideas and get other specific shots that I wanted. So, I encourage everyone to always make a shot list. I know that I always will moving forward, for sure.
JH: Awesome. You went out into the field, not only did you do this assignment, which was your first experience with assignment photography, but you also went out into the field for a project to really dig into that. By the time you got home, after all of this experience, what were some of the lessons that you learned about yourself as a conservation photographer, and as someone who's really digging in deep into being a conservation photographer, not a wildlife photographer, but someone with a mission for their images?
CR: There are so many lessons. Again, I learned so many things on this trip. I think I learned, as a conservation photographer, that it's so incredibly fulfilling to do a style of photography that you know is for the greater good. I think that helped me overcome 90% of the challenges that I had, because I strongly feel, with the art form of conservation photography, that your images can be powerful. And for me, if one person looks at the image, and they learn about that stork, then great, I've done my job. I want them to feel something for the stork, but I think the biggest problem with this bird is a lot of people don't know about it.
The biggest lesson was that following your passion can really help push things forward for the greater good. That this project, yes, it's about me and developing as a photographer, and I hope the images get published, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But at the end of the day, it's such a great feeling to know that ultimately the work is to push forward a cause, and to help give a voice to a creature that doesn't have a voice, if that makes sense.
JH: Yeah. No, absolutely. I love that. I think that you're kind of reflecting on what a lot of conservation photographers figure out, is that once you really know your why, all of a sudden everything that's ego-driven becomes secondary and that “why” is that huge driver that makes you capable of accomplishing extraordinary things.
CR: Exactly. And that's what kept me going. You have a way of encapsulating what I say and making it make a lot of sense, so I appreciate that. ‘Cause to me these are really big questions, and you're helping me think about my project on another level that I haven't thought about it yet because I'm still in the middle of it and of processing the whole journey. But, yeah, for sure, that's why I love conservation photography so much because, like I said, it really becomes something bigger than myself. And it's been the first thing in my life that I've had that's like that, and that's why I love it so much.
JH: Now that you know you have this massive passion, and you've mentioned that this stork is kind of this driver of you, as someone who's incredibly passionate, it's changed your world. What's going on now with your project?
CR: Well, right now, I'm going through five weeks of footage and photos, which has been a learning experience. I've gotten really good at editing, and being honest with myself, so I'm doing that. And one of the biggest… It's important to let people know what this project… I didn't wanna just go and take photos. I know the photos can be for the greater good, but I also wanted to offer Purnima all my skills, so I volunteered while I was on the ground there. And what I'm gonna do with the resulting media is I'm gonna donate that to her to hopefully use however she wants to elevate and push forward her cause. And I'm also taking those materials to help build her a website, I'm cutting her a video. That's what I'm in the process of doing right now once I get through all of the editing. And I'm also hoping to get the story published, that's a big hope, because that's good for me and that's good for the project. And that would be an amazing result as well, to have these images out there to a larger audience. Yeah, I'm juggling a lot at once, and to me, I still feel like I'm very much in the project. I don't feel like it's done yet. I'm still working very, very hard on it, so I'm basically living with the stork every single day.
JH: Do you think that you'll ever be done with it?
CR: With the stork project? Honestly, I think I am always gonna look back on the Greater Adjutant stork as a pivotal point in my life. Because I'm such a goofy person in general, I never wanna sound too cliche or too Disney movie, but really this bird, for some reason, I think, came into my life for a reason. It changed my whole world view. Through the stork, I was able to find Purnima and her work, which is a whole another thing, because what she is doing in her backyard with conservation is absolutely amazing. She's empowering a community to save a bird that was looked down upon as a bad omen. That's a very good question. I don't think I will ever be done with it, because I think this project, to me, was kind of and is a defining moment in my life. I don't know where it's gonna lead me, but I know it definitely changed so many things inside of me that I think is always gonna be part of me. And I hope the stork knows how much I love it. If it knew, it would probably be totally freaked out. It'd be like, “Who is this lady? Why does she love so much?”
JH: Well, I love hearing your story. I've now heard a couple of times, and every single time I get to talk with you about your adventure I feel more inspired and more enlightened. And you are such a bright spot inside of our Facebook group, Conservation Photographers, inside of Wild Idea Lab. You lend so much energy to us, as conservation photographers, in these communities that if… Your project, it's one fraction of how much energy you bring to these communities, then I know it'll be a success. And I'm sure that those storks will figure out very quickly that that weird lady is someone that they wanna keep around for a while.
CR: Oh, and thank you so much for saying that. And I'd encourage anyone who's on the fence about joining Wild Idea Lab to join it because it's been such an amazing resource for me because, before Wild Idea Lab, I was just completely figuring out all this stuff on my own. I'm convinced, if I would have had Wild Idea Lab two years ago, that certain things would have been different about this project because, with Wild Idea Lab, you have a whole community of people, in a safe space, you can ask questions to. And I will say that I'm glad that I joined when I did, because even though I've only been a member for a short time, it's actually helped me navigate and figure out certain things of my project that if I would have known I would have done certain things differently. It's really helped me grow. And I'm not being paid for this endorsement, listeners, I just really love Wild Idea Lab and you should really join. And Jaymi is just doing a killer job with offering invaluable resources. So, if I had a… Go ahead. I'm sorry.
JH: No. I just think that's hilarious, 'cause I was totally thinking I wanna jump in and be like, “I didn't plan that. I didn't plan for Carla to say all that.” It just happened to be a beautiful little testimonial right there that landed perfectly.
CR: Well, I am the type of person… It's very important for me to show gratitude, because what you're doing with Wild Idea Lab is not easy at all. Going to India is not easy at all. These things aren't easy, and I think it's important for people to know when they're appreciated, especially when they're doing very, very hard things. And you're doing a great job. So, yeah, it's just… It's honestly spoken out of the passion and the gratitude I feel for having that resource. I'm gonna go cry now.
JH: Well, I think that you just gave us a really perfect loop back around, because what we do is very much not easy work. It's not technically easy, it's not creatively easy, it's not emotionally easy work. And that's exactly why I wanted to talk with you, is that you took something that is not easy to do, and you just grabbed it by the horns and went with it. And I think that that courage is something that's very admirable. And it's one part courage, and it's one part dedication, and I think that you just encompass what so many conservation photographers, especially when they're starting out, really feel and yet it becomes a hurdle. They are dedicated, they really wanna make a difference, and yet there's sometimes a mental barrier because it's hard work and it's really scary. And so to know that you're there as this great example of someone who was like, “Yeah, this is really scary stuff, but I really have a why in place to go and do this.” And the challenge, that effort, that really paid off for you as a photographer. For the species, for the other people who are working to conserve the species, it really paid off. I think that that's a great loop around to the fact that the work we do is difficult, but the payoff is huge. And thank you so much for being a living example of that.
CR: I don't know if… My background, I've been in… I talk about this a lot because I think it's important to my journey. I was pursuing ventriloquism and comedy since I was a little kid, so I'm used to it my whole life, like going up on stage with a puppet and trying to make people laugh. And I lived in New York City for 16 years doing this, and this is the hardest crowd, hardest crowds in the world. You walk out and their arms are folded. So, if you can make people laugh in that situation… Basically my background taught me to… It's normal to be fearful. Every time before I went on stage, I felt like I was gonna throw up. Even before this podcast interview, I'm shaking, I'm so nervous. But you have to overcome the fear, because if you don't, you don't get to do the things that you wanna do. I just wanna encourage people just to do things, just do it, because you don't know what's gonna happen. Yes, you might walk out on stage with your puppet and people may not laugh at you that night, but there's always another night, and you'll always learn things, and that life is really, really short.
Look at what is happening in the world right now, here is an example that I want people to learn from hopefully. A lot of people thought me doing this project was crazy because I was going in without credentials. And I didn't… Who knows if it'll get published, but I went. My original trip was cancelled due to the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, there were… It was passed last year, and there were lots of riots, so it wasn't safe to travel. And I went in February anyway, and thank goodness I did because now the world is locked down who knows for how long? My husband didn't want me to go in February. A few people were like, “It's not gonna be safe to go.” And I'm really, really glad I went. And at that point, with the grant, by the way, I didn't know if I had funding. I knew it had made it pretty far along, which is an honor, in the process of judging or evaluation, I don't know what it's called with grants. But I went anyway. It turns out I didn't get the grant, but I learned so much that it was so worth it. So, people should just do what they wanna do. Life is really short. As cliche as that sounds, it's true, just do it. And the world needs conservation photographers so bad right now. So, that's my take on that. I like to give you very, very, very long answers.
JH: I love it. I think that there's so much that comes out of those long answers that is really great information. So, keep long answers coming as much as you want.
CR: All right.
JH: Well, Carla, thank you so much for your efforts and for being here with me today. You are an inspiration, as always.
CR: Thanks so much for having me.
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