That legendary photographer Raghu Rai’s love affair with the lens has stood the test of time is apparent to anyone who has met him.
That legendary photographer Raghu Rai’s love affair with the lens has stood the test of time is apparent to anyone who has met him. At his Mehrauli office, overlooking the Qutub Minar, the Padma Shri awardee studies the prints of his latest photographs from Ladakh with a childlike expression. “I still have sleepless nights, as I am so excited about seeing my prints the next morning,” he says.
While his passion was drawn out by his elder brother and legend S Paul, the celebrated Henri Cartier-Bresson, founder of Magnum, took him to his zenith. “I was exhibiting in Paris when I saw a man holding a Leica in his hands and looking at my photographs. I walked up to him and asked, ‘Are you Mr Bresson?’ He nodded and asked if I was the photographer whose work was on display. Soon enough, he called Martine Franck, his wife, and a legendary photographer herself, and told her about his new-found friend. The same day we met over dinner and it was the start of a friendship that would last forever. He is the one who opened a number of avenues for many of us to follow.” says Rai. He still remembers his stay with Bresson at his farmhouse in France, the last time they met.
At 70, Rai has just completed his latest body of work, Outside the Margins produced with the NGO, Save the Children, which highlights the plight of street children in India. It is in stark contrast to his earlier work. He says, “In my photography experience of over 45 years, I have always consciously stayed away from taking pictures that showed the misery, poverty and helplessness of my country. When I started on this subject, I initially imagined that I would be capturing transformation through my lens, but in reality, it took me some time, on my first day, to absorb the misery and sadness so ingrained in the slums and the landfills of Delhi.”