RAGHU RAI: Magnum Photographer NYC Exhibit

Book Cover: Artist Studio, Kolkata, 2004
RAGHU RAI'S INDIA: Reflections In Black & White
(Penguin Studio 2007)

Flower Market, Kolkata, 2004
Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Traffic at Chawri Bazar, Delhi, 1964
Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Ganpati Celebration, Mumbai, 2001
Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Preparing for Durga Puja, Kolkata, 1999
Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Burial of an unknown child the morning after the catastrophic Union Carbide gas leak that killed thousands on the early morning of December 3, 1984. Raghu Rai cried as he took this picture. Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Skulls discarded after research at the Hamidia Hospital, Bhopal after the great Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Photograph (c) Raghu Rai /All Rights Reserved

Raghu Rai next to his well-known photograph, "Mother Teresa at her refuge of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta during prayer."The Guardian, 2010

Photographs by Raghu Rai (Penguin Studio 2010)

I believe that the photographer's job is to cut a frame-sized slice out of the world around him so cleanly that if he were to put it back again, life and the world would continue to move without a stumble–Raghu Rai

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Raghu Rai has been in the forefront of photography in India for over 40 years. As a member of Magnum, he established an international reputation as a photographer with his special photo-essays on the Bhopal Gas tragedy. His work has regularly appeared in Paris Match, National Geographic, The New York Times and Newsweek. Twenty-five of his photographs are held in the permanent collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and in 1997 the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi gave Rai the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary Indian photographer. His impressive body of work is now being featured in a retrospective at the Aicon Gallery, 35 Great Jones Street, in New York City.

Raghu Rai | A Retrospective Exhibition
February 18 - March 20, 2011

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I like being among my own people. I merge with them. I don't carry camera bags, I don't wear stylish clothes. I have one camera with a zoom lens so I am not alarming people; no one is saying, 'Here comes a photographer!'

The Guardian Interview: It was a donkey that made Raghu Rai want to become a photographer. He trained as a civil engineer in the early 1960s, but did the job for a year in Delhi and hated it. His elder brother was already earning a living taking pictures and suggested Rai accompany a friend on a shoot to take photographs of children in a local village. When he got there, Rai's interest was sparked not by the children but by a donkey foal in a nearby field.

"I tried to get closer, but when I was about 10 feet away, the donkey started running and the children started laughing," he says now, more than 40 years later. Rai chased the donkey for the best part of three hours in order to amuse his audience. "I was enjoying myself. After a while, the donkey got tired and stood there so I got closer and took the shot. It was evening and the landscape was fading in soft light." His brother entered the resulting picture into a weekly competition run by The Times in London. It was published. "The [prize] money I got was enough to live on for a month," says Rai. "I thought, 'This is not a bad idea, man!'"

That was 1965. The following year, he joined the Statesman newspaper in West Bengal as its chief photographer. He never went back to civil engineering. "My father worked for the irrigation department," says Rai. "People would ask how many sons he had and he would say, 'I have four. Two have gone photographers', like he was saying, 'Two have gone mad.'" Over a career spanning four decades, his son has become one of the foremost chroniclers of the changing face of India. His images are famed for capturing both his country's brutality and its beauty, often within a single frame.

Rai, who was born in a small Pakistani village and came to India during Partition, has been witness to some of the most significant events in his country's recent history. He was one of the first photographers on the scene after the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster and has produced acclaimed documentary series on Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. Championed in the west by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rai joined Magnum Photos in 1977 and went on to judge the World Press Photo Awards from 1990 to 1997...read the full Interview by Elizabeth Day in The Guardian , UK


Bruce Barone said...

Amazing images.

And I find it interesting he started as a Civil Engineer.

minimodi said...

the photo of that burried child is just breathtaking, it's beyond strong, unbelievebly he even could take that picture... I'm gonna go and hold my son now.

Meera Rao said...

wonderful story behind the photographer! and what images! Hope I will get to visit NYC before the show ends.

Kristin H said...

Such strong photography, makes me speechless.
So long since I have been visiting your blog. Nice to be back!