Wild animal photographer Karim Sahai show on here

The aurora borealis over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard. Photographer Karim Sahai (right) captures life in the Arctic with photos such as one of a polar bear in Svalbard (far right).
Photographer Karim Sahai captures life in the Arctic with photos such as one of a polar bear in Svalbard.PHOTOS: KARIM SAHAI
The aurora borealis over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard. Photographer Karim Sahai (right) captures life in the Arctic with photos such as one of a polar bear in Svalbard (far right).
Photographer Karim Sahai captures life in the Arctic with photos such as one of a polar bear in Svalbard.PHOTOS: KARIM SAHAI
The aurora borealis over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard. Photographer Karim Sahai (right) captures life in the Arctic with photos such as one of a polar bear in Svalbard (far right).
The aurora borealis over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard.PHOTOS: KARIM SAHAI

An exhibition by French photographer Karim Sahai captures life in the Arctic

From polars bears in the Arctic to silverback gorillas and lions in Africa, French photographer Karim Sahai has photographed them all.

Not only has he documented the world's wildest animals for more than 20 years, but he has also created visual effects for blockbuster films including The Lord Of The Rings (2002 and 2003), Avatar (2009) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

Based in Singapore, he is a supervisor of visual effects at Industrial Light & Magic, an American motion-picture visual-effects company founded in 1975 by film-maker George Lucas.

He was previously based in New Zealand collaborating with film director Peter Jackson, doing visual effects at Weta Digital.

For Sahai, who declined to give his age, the boundary between photography, film-making and visual effects is a soft one. "Ultimately, the thing that balances those disciplines is the understanding of light, manipulating light to achieve a particular visual result," he says.

His photographs of the Arctic are on display at The Fullerton Hotel until Jan 16.

  • VIEW IT / THE WILD ARCTIC PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY KARIM SAHAI

  • WHERE: East Garden Foyer, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square

    WHEN: Till Jan 16

    ADMISSION: Free

Interestingly, what set him on his career path as a visual artist was a hobby of collecting postage stamps. When he was growing up on the tropical island of Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean in the 1980s, his family received a lot of mail - about 50 to 100 pieces a week - from the Soviet Union.

"One of the striking things about the stamps was how beautiful and varied they were in terms of subjects such as nature, space exploration and military," he says.

When he started travelling a few years later, he wanted to transcribe what he was seeing in a visual way - to share with people the things he experienced. Photography became a natural extension of that and he took pictures wherever he went.

In 1993, the release of American science-fiction blockbuster Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, changed his life.

"When that movie came out, it was a big thing for me because it was the epitome of technology, which I liked reading about - about visual art and also how to create something out of nothing, using digital technology to manufacture an image that told a story," he says.

In 1994, he went for his first Siggraph (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques), an annual conference on computer graphics in Orlando. That was the boost in his decision to choose visual effects as a career, despite having a degree in business administration.

Even though he has worked on many films over the years, he still goes back to photography because he finds the simplicity of a still image simple but powerful.

He carries more than 20kg of equipment that includes two Canon EOS-1D X DSLR camera bodies and a range of lenses on his trips.

Describing himself as someone who is "very open to the world and loves meeting people and experiencing new things", he jokes about how he likes to travel to places that most people would not necessarily think of going first.

That is why he ends up going to places that are less developed, harder to get to and where nature is at its most powerful. "Humans are not necessarily the biggest things there. The climate is, the environment is, the elements are and you're at the mercy of the geography of the place. That, for me, is what I try to transcribe in my photography," he says about his fascination with the Arctic. He has travelled there so many times that he has lost count of the number of trips he has made.

He is concerned about the climatic changes there, which he believes are human-induced. He points out that with each trip there, the freezing happens later and, in winter, there is less ice than there was three years ago.

"With the fast-changing climate, it's not just the ice that is gone. It affects the wildlife. It affects the geography of the place."

His favourite Arctic image was taken on an island called Nordaustlandet and shows a polar bear walking on a beach, dwarfed by a massive glacier in the background.

What is interesting is the juxtaposition of predator and ice - powerful elements of the Arctic that are in delicate positions because of the climatic change.

He runs Full Life Photo Adventures, a small company in Norway set up in 2013 that takes people on photography tours.

He will be taking a small group of people from Singapore to Svalbard and the Norwegian Arctic next week and will take another group to Greenland in summer next year.

The goal when he goes on trips is not to take photos, but to experience life and nature.

While he is happy to take photographs, he is also happy if he does not because "life is not experience behind a camera and behind a lens".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Nature in focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe