Instagram was launched in the year 2010 as a photo-sharing social media platform, where presently millions of users share their photos every day. Today it is one of the most heavily used platforms. With that quick brief on IG, a hashtag such as #photography is used 622 million times. This clearly shows the dominance of the photography field. In India itself, users on IG have photography pages that shows their inclination towards clicking photographs. That’s the reason why hashtags like #indianphotography and #indianphotographer are been used 7.4 million & 1.3 million times respectively. But long before the existence and emergence of IG as the gateway to the electronic world of photography, there was a whole different scenario for artistic photographers.
Indian photography has a rich history of art and artists. And there is one name that separates the two eras of clicking through a lens like oil and water, a name that is so respected and idolised by the younger generation for his remarkable work and contribution to the Indian Photography, a man who believes in the “Ordinariness of Daily Life!”; he is the living legend of our country, Mr. Raghunath Rai Chowdhry also known as Mr. Raghu Rai.
His Early Life
Raghu was born in 1942 in the village of Jhang, Punjab, British India, now Pakistan. He started learning photography in the year 1962 under his elder brother Mr. Sharampal Chowdhry and then got serious for his career in 1965.
The kind of vision behind the lens Raghu Rai had was never witnessed before. His utmost sincerity and conviction in storytelling through voiceless photographs was unique and unmatched. Before Rai, Indian Photography was very formal and confined to posed portraits of politicians, setups and statics, largely expressionless. Rarely one could see the essence of India in those clicks. As India was in extreme poverty, Raghu Rai went to different states like UP, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab amongst other states to expose the huge inequalities that today’s youngsters will never get to see. He clicked the soul and spirit of India through intricate and intuitive details.
Work & Achievements
Raghu Rai is an extreme of an observer. This has made him go on from strength to strength for more than five decades now. Within his first year as a rookie photographer, he got selected in The Statesman, New Delhi Publications. In 4 year from 1976-1980, he worked at “Sunday” a weekly news magazine based in Calcutta, as a Picture Editor. Followed by his constant push to pursue more in his field, in 1980, Rai joined India Today as the Director Of Photography, where he worked till 1992. Raghu Rai has been awarded the “Photographer of The Year” in 1992. He was also honoured with the Padma Shri award in 1972 by the Government of India for his exemplary contribution to the field of Arts.
In 1974, Raghu Rai published his first work (that too) with the then Prime Minister, Smt. Indra Gandhi, by the name “A Day In The Life Of Indira Gandhi”. It was the first of many of his present date publications. Over the years, Rai has nearly 30+ photo books under his name. Some of them include: “Raghu Rai’s India”, “Mother Teresa: A Life Of Dedication”, “Delhi: A Portrait”, “The Sikhs”, “Lakshadweep”, “Calcutta” and “Bhopal Gas Tragedy.”
What Makes Raghu Rai The Raghu Rai?
That’s a question with an answer in itself, i.e. Raghu Rai. He was the one who in the history of Indian Photography is synonymous to someone who introduced the concept of emotions and storytelling through his clicks. He in one single frame has this unique ability to cover many large stories. In short, he is a master of framing small elements and long shots. His technique to co-relate the foreground and background is very thoughtful.
The post-processing and framing stand neat and natural, especially detailing in composition, correct use of texture, patterns as well as the optimum light. Layering too is his niche.
There is a certain calmness, beauty and aesthetic feel to both his B&W Collection and Coloured Collection. Personally, the B&W connects much more deeply due to the power and energy in the frames (of emotions) than the coloured ones. All this continued beyond time and with not such modern DSLRs.
His answer to, “What makes a great photograph?” tells so much about his artistic side.
He said in one of his interviews that, “An image that has captured the heartbeat and the current of that experience in any given situation of people, of life, of nature; and the moment you see that beat touches you, and that current you get electrified in that moment instantaneously; if it has that energy, that magic, then it’s an alive powerful photograph, but if it’s just pretty and predictable then it’s all empty creativity.”
“When I’m photographing, I can’t hear, I don’t read, I don’t hear I only see. The important part is that you must inhale and experience what is precious and then reflect it in the most visual truthful form.” he added.
What’s more interesting is to know, what’s happening inside him when he clicks?
He beautifully answered this question, ”It’s not about ideas and concepts because many smart ideas, many smart new stories are there in this world, but they are all doable and predictable. And when you begin to live and experience beyond your own ideas and concept then nature offers you something unique, so what is happening inside me is very simple, the sensor of my heart has to be clean, honest and reflective I am not thinking of anything; I’m just trying to feel the experience and the feeling or the vibrations or the energy that is being exhibited in that space, at then I just respond to that energy, that feeling that gets reflected through the sensor, so that you are a clean mirror to the situation.”
Raghu Rai firmly believes that, “The Nature, Nature has gifts for everybody if you make yourself available mentally, physically and spiritually.”
When asked about a piece of advice for the upcoming photography enthusiasts he replied, “I feel that to be successful in any profession, you need to be passionate and eager to experiment. If photography is your interest, traveling will help you a great deal, as you would get to experiment and learn.”
Most of us seek a purpose to what we do in our lives, as per Rai, “The purpose of the photography is to capture the time we live in because that is going to be the photo history of tomorrow, the visual history of tomorrow.”
For the last five decades, Rai has concentrated on his own country and in his lifetime have clicked every ways of India. He is truly a devotee of this Incredible India.
To conclude the talk of Raghu Rai, the artist beyond time, he once rightly summarised, “an artist is someone who responds with feelings, first he lives with feelings then thinks… the one who thinks first and then does the work, loses up on his artistry.”
“Only thing I have is my heart, which I need not to borrow, it’s always there. So when I move with my camera my heart moves ahead of me to see and experience and to receive.”
“Me Dil Ki Ankh Se Dekhta Hoon!”
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