Arati Kumar-Rao: Documenting the slow violence of environment degradation

National Geographic Explorer Arati Kumar-Rao takes her time visiting and observing ecosystems to uncover deeper insights.

For Bangalore-based photographer, writer, and artist Arati Kumar-Rao, the word “wasteland” is a misnomer when it comes to describing living, thriving ecosystems like deserts, wetlands, and grasslands. 

Kumar-Rao’s work, which chronicles what she calls the “slow violence” of environmental change in these communities across south Asia and the people whose livelihoods are most affected, has “opened at least a few eyes to this myth,” she says.

In documenting this environmental degradation across south Asia, Kumar-Rao spends long periods of time in — and returns often to — the ecosystems and communities she photographs and writes about. 

Taking her time in places allows landscapes and people to reveal things and make observations that short visits otherwise could not. 

“To go back repeatedly to places, observe them through seasons and over years,” she says. ”It allows me to see connections. Stay grounded.”

Kumar-Rao sees a future where this kind of connection is possible for all of us, one where “every one of us will step out of our cocoons and begin to know and reconnect with nature in a meaningful and enduring way.” 


This Explorer's work is funded by the National Geographic Society
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