His remarkable career began with a beguiling little donkey looking straight into a box camera, and went on to chronicle the story of a nation and its people. As Raghu Rai commemorates 50 years as a photo-journalist, a new book and an exhibition that opens in New Delhi on December 18 demonstrate how his work has stayed relevant despite the passage of time
Veena maestro S Balahander at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu (1988).
The 192-page Picturing Time: The Greatest Photographs of Raghu Rai is a compilation of more than 200 of the photographer’s most memorable images with accompanying stories. It demonstrates his attempt to fit into his frame the essence of India, its history, rich culture and natural beauty. The exhibition, also titled Picturing Time, features 50 of his photographs, most of which are in the book. But it also has a few additions.
“Our idea was to represent Raghu Rai’s major works in a small way,” said Anubhav Nath, curatorial director at Ojas Art Gallery. “The length and breadth of his work is very vast and we have tried to include something from every era of Raghu Rai, like the portraits he is famous for, his Delhi series and other significant slices from his work.”
Rocks near Qutub Minar (1990).
Young ladies of Kutch (2010).
Prayer at Dal Lake, Srinagar (1995).
Roadside scene, Shimla (1982).
Rai is a member of Magnum, an international collective of photographers co-founded by legendary French photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson. But unlike others from the collective who choose to travel the world on their assignments, Rai has never felt the need to look beyond India for inspiration.
A certain sense of calm overcomes the viewer of Rai’s photographs, stemming from his deep personal connection to his art. That’s obvious from his portraits of Mother Teresa, the majestic grandeur of Ladakh or even the chaos of Old Delhi. As a chronicler of India’s politics and history, Rai elevated the mundane to the extraordinary. As a photojournalist, he ranks among the great practitioners, not just in India but around the world.
A portrait of the Dalai Lama.
Sadhus at Varanasi ghat (2001).
Portraits of a painter family (1980).
The exhibition Picturing Time opens on December 18 and will continue till January 31 at Ojas Art Gallery in New Delhi. The book of the same name has been published by Aleph Book Company.