Monday, 8 June 2009

Raghu Rai

The great Indian photographer – and Magnum member – Raghu Rai has a new book out, Raghu Rai's India: Reflections in Colour (Haus Books, London 2009). This is a huge, sumptuously printed landscape volume of full-page images and even, in some cases, double-page images (presumably from an XPan double-frame camera).

Anyone unfamiliar with Rai's work can find a large selection on his Magnum pages here.

In the introduction to his new book Rai writes:
"I believe the photographer’s job is to cut a frame-sized slice out of the world around him, so faithfully and honestly that if he were to put it back again, life and the world would begin to move again without a stumble."

What an extraordinary idea – even as I read it I found it inducing a kind of mental vertigo...

This is the cover image of his new book. I love the repetition of colour, and the slashes of blue diagonals (echoed by the tooth-cleaning sticks in the figures' mouths).

Maybe it's only my imagination, but Rai's earlier black & white work seems substantially different to his later colour – more sombre, of course, but also more monumental, less serendipitous, less given to chance. His colour work, though, has all these things – monumentality but also fleetness, chance, serendipity, a joyous sense of fun, of immersion in the crowd. In fact it seems to have much more in common with the street photography of that other great Indian photographer, with Raghubir Singh, who died tragically early in 1999, aged only 56.

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