This edition of the Delhi Photo Festival will be exhibiting never-seen-before work by Raghu Rai.
“You can’t escape Raghu Rai’s work whether you are a photographer or not. That is his strength,” said DPF core team member Sohrab Hura in an interview with Invisible Photographer Asia. Over the last five decades, Raghu Rai has been documenting India relentlessly. The Bangladesh war of 1971, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984, the numerous visual stories in India Today. The sheer volume of work that Rai has built over the years has ensured his name becoming synonymous with Indian photography.
The one aspect that the world has not had a glimpse of as yet, seen is a look into Rai’s own life. The first photographs that he made of his personal life were that of his brother, S. Paul. “You never stop being a photographer,” Rai reminisced in an interview after a recent book launch of his, “you keep shooting.”
The images in this exhibition have a certain tenderness about them: an ever-so-slight smile on Rai’s face, the gentleness with which he holds his children in an early selfie. Still, what is unmissable is the control over his craft, the way he sees light, the way he frames his images.
In 2011, co-founder of the Delhi Photo Festival Prashant Panjiar (who had worked with Rai at India Today) approached Rai. He knew that Rai had been photographing his friends and family for a long time and wanted him to do a show with those personal portraits at the festival’s inaugural edition. At the time, Rai was prompt to dismiss him saying that it would be too self-indulgent.
Earlier this year, Panjiar visited Rai again and was pleasantly surprised. Rai had taken his suggestion and compiled moments out of his personal life into a dummy book. The idea of a personal project had obviously taken germ in Rai’s mind.
And so, for the first time this year at the Delhi Photo Festival, we shall get a look into Raghu Rai’s personal life. Was his approach to shooting his family different than that of five years of documenting a nation? “Na ji na,” said Rai, “The only thing is that I responded differently because different situations [give rise to] different emotions and energies. You have to put your heart into the sensor of the camera for anything.”
Born in 1942, Raghu Rai’s first job as a photojournalist was with The Statesman. In 1977, Henri Cartier-Bresson nominated Rai to Magnum photos. From 1982 to 1992, he was the director of photography for India Today. He served on the jury of the World Press Photo Awards from 1990 to 1997. He has had numerous exhibitions all around the world and has published many books. In 1992, Rai was awarded the Padmashree.
The Album – Family & Friends is part of the print exhibitions line-up for this edition of the Delhi Photo Festival starting on October 30 at the IGNCA, Delhi. Raghu Rai also launches his magazine Creative Images on October 30 at the venue at 12:30 p.m.