If you are a photographer, a visual artist from any discipline, or a photography enthusiast, in all probability, Raghu Rai is no stranger to you. A household name in India and global photography circles, he is one of the finest contemporary photographers as exemplified by the myriad national honors and international eminence gained over the vast length of his career as a photojournalist. I’m delighted every time I think about how lucky I am to own a treasure trove in the form of a Raghu Rai photobook on my shelf. However, for those of you, who are not familiar with his works, you are about to embark on the beautiful experience of discovering Raghu Rai for the first time.
Raghu Rai, born in 1942 in Jhang, Pakistan, initially trained as a civil engineer but turned to photography at 23. He served as the chief photographer for The Statesman newspaper from 1966 to 1976, and then as the Picture Editor for Sunday, a weekly news magazine based in Calcutta, from 1977 to 1980. After his exhibition at Gallery Delpire in Paris caught the attention of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rai was nominated to join Magnum Photos in 1971. From 1982 to 1991, he held the roles of Picture Editor, Visualizer, and Photographer at India Today, where he produced pioneering photo essays on social, political, and cultural topics of the time.
He received the Padma Shri in 1972 for his contributions to documenting the liberation war of Bangladesh and its refugees. In 2009, the French government awarded him the Officier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2019, Rai was recognized as the laureate of the first edition of the Académie des Beaux-arts Photography Award - William Klein. Rai has an extensive exhibition history in India and abroad, and his photographs are widely sought after by public and private collectors. He currently resides in Delhi and is represented by Photoink.
Given his remarkable and widely acclaimed career, the announcement of a Raghu Rai exhibition at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) prompted many to ponder what distinguished this particular exhibition from the numerous ones that had preceded it. Titled Raghu Rai: A Thousand Lives (Photographs from 1965-2005) and curated by Roobina Karode with Devika Daulet- Singh, this collection highlights the early period of Rai's career before digital photography when he passionately and freely explored analog/film photography with great imagination. A new selection of photographs from his extensive archives, previously unseen by the public, is being showcased. Focusing on his black-and-white photography, the exhibition features his enduring fascination with capturing political and spiritual leaders, as well as the development of his practice during his years as a photojournalist.
This exhibition showcases the enigmatic and less familiar side of Raghu Rai, highlighting his remarkable talent for capturing a wide range of experiences and his comprehensive perspective on photographing India and its people. Over nearly six decades, Rai has delved into India's multi-faceted reality, from its bustling streets and hidden alleyways to its walls, facades, bridges, and markets, offering a unique exploration of the country. Intrigued by the world surrounding him, he has documented the essence of everyday life and its dynamic evolution as a live theater.
Raghu Rai: A Thousand Lives (Photographs from 1965-2005)
Venue: KNMA, Noida
Time: 10:30 am – 6:30 pm
On view till: 31st March, 2024
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