Global Identity Series: Raghu Rai

Raghu Rai is a renowned photojournalist in the Indian history of photography. Rai became a photographer in year 1965 and he managed to make an entry in “The Statesman, a New Delhi publication” the very next year. After serving the publication for 10 years he started Freelancing. From 1982 until 1992 he was a director of photography in India Today. He has also served the jury for World Press Photo three times. R.R was born in a small village called Jhang, British India (now in Pakistan). He is currently based in Delhi with his family and continues to be an associate of Magnum photos.

A photographer “by chance” by his own admission, Raghu Rai started off with a box camera presented to him by his brother. He started pursuing photography in 1965 and joined The Statesman as Chief Photographer in 1966. He went on to become Picture Editor at Sunday, a weekly news magazine published from Calcutta, and remained there from 1977 to 1980. In1971 Raghu Rai was nominated for Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestigious photographers’ cooperative, by the legendary photographer Henri Cartier Bresson.

Since 1985, Rai has specialized in the extensive coverage of India and has produced more than 18 books, including Raghu Rai’s DelhiThe SikhsCalcuttaKhajurahoTaj MahalTibet in Exile, India and so on. The mention of these books unmistakably would guide one to understand him as an empathetic, humanist manufacturer of images. His work reminds the viewer over and again that it is the mind behind the lens that makes a good picture.

Over the years Rai has become one of India’s most recognized photographers and is respected for his insight while focusing on his subject matter, as well as for being a photographer inspired and intrigued by the multitude of Indian culture, capturing glimpses of the panorama through his lenses.

As a critic of his own work, he writes, “The time we live in is complex and multilayered. The experience of India is horizontal, it does not begin from anywhere, nor does it end anywhere. There comes a saturation point in any art form, the overloading of expression shows it down. A moment in space is just not enough and a panoramic experience creates the possibility of capturing simultaneity of moments happening in any given situation. And it opens up a much larger canvas to deal with.” Rai’s own words best describe his work with uttermost humility and sensibility. Raghu Rai lives and works in New Delhi.

He has achieved:

  • The Padmashree in 1971,
  • National Geographic cover story “Human Management of Wildlife in India” won him widespread critical acclaim for the piece. (1992)
  • Photographer of the year from USA (1992)

Raghu Rai’s work has created a mark in the Indian history. He has documented subjects that included Indira Gandhi (1974), the cities of Delhi (1983), the Sikhs (1984), Tibet in exile (1990), Mother Teresa (1996), The Bhopal disaster (2002). Twenty-five of his photographs are held in the permanent collection of France’s Bibliotheque Nationale and in 1997 the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi gave him the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary Indian photographer.

5 Photography tips from Ace photographer Raghu Rai

  •  “Skills are never taught, they are acquired. I can give you a camera. But can’t feed your vision.”
  • “Photography is a struggle to respond to the situations and realize its importance. Death and life don’t wait for anyone. One has to understand this hidden meaning before picking up a camera.”
  • “Nonprofessional photographers should begin clicking portraits as it teaches them to connect with emotions better than juggling between doing overambitious pictures”
  • “If your mind is not connected to what you are shooting then you are not a hood photographer”
  • “A creative photographer is one who either captures mystery or reveals things, everything else is useless.”

To find more of Raghu Rai’s interesting work log onto :

This post is a part of GLOBAL IDENTITY SERIES Project initiated by Dravasp Shroff. (Read More)

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