July 10, 2008


Currently singing:
Close my Eyes Forever, Ozzy feat. Lita Ford
Right, so I haven't visited this space for quite sometime--my sincere apologies to all. For the past one month, I had been running up and down the
Capital, giving entrance tests and what not. And now I'm happily settled Mumbai. Ironic, isn't it?
Recently, I visited the National Art Gallery in
Mumbai. So this is my take on Raghu Rai pictures: thought-provoking, and extremely trippy. If any of you ever have a chance to take a look at his pictures, go for it, I say. Truthfully, I've never really appreciated the art of photography, until now.
For decades
Raghu Rai’s pictures have spoken to us—each one having its own voice and its own story to tell. Though set in India, Rai’s photographs have had universal impact, evoking varied emotions in the hearts of those who’ve come across them. Using a mesmeric interplay of light and dark, Rai’s works celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary. Whether his subject is a ‘baby donkey’, or women thrashing wheat grains with the sombre Humayun’s tomb in the distant background—his pictures portray life with compelling simplicity.

In 1965,
Rai’s photo Baby Donkey, catapulted him into prominence as a photographer. For more than two decades, he experimented with the elements of black and white, and coloured his photographs with different intensities of these elements. His photograph, Among the Sparrows (1968), for example, touches upon the themes of racism and alienation, by depicting a lone raven, surrounded by a threatening wall of innumerable sparrows. This is probably why Hoffman felt that Rai’s work dealt with the “subject of humanity on a universal scale.” Another picture, the Two Old Men (1970) articulates the economic disparity intrinsic in society. Rai depicts this through the posture of the two men while walking. While the man in a suit walks upright, his counterpart, wearing a ‘dhoti’, walks with a stick in hand, hunched. The posture of the latter speaks volumes about the oppressiveness burdening the poor. Moreover, an Indian wearing an Englishman’s suit testifies that imperialism continues to exist in India.

For a considerable period of time,
Rai’s photographs involved minimal entities (Sensuous Baby, My Father My Son, and A Train to Darjeeling). However, post 2001, Rai began to capture more elements of life, playing with more colours, thanks to modern technology. Pilgrims after a Holy Bath (2005) is one such picture. Taken at Varanasi, the picture details numerous pilgrims performing different rites and actions—each pilgrim is distinctive from the other, yet all belong to one frame and—one existence.

One of
Rai’s most striking images is of the Sensuous Baby. In India, the picture has the propensity to trigger off several debates. It shows an infant suckling his mother’s breast, playing with one of her nipples. The nakedness of the mother and child is symbolical of naked truth: sensuality and sexuality are all basic to mankind and there should be no room for hypocrisy. For Rai, photography is to celebrate life in every form, including, “capturing the rhythm and music in a human body.”

Rai has dedicated himself to capturing the life of India and her people, gifting insightful glimpses of her ‘being’. His contribution to photography as an art form, as a study of life in black and white, as well as in colour, and to the understanding of India, are beyond comparison.