As an exhibition showcasing some of his timeless images opens in the city today, ace lensman Raghu Rai tells us how a picture happens.

Raghu Rai moves back and forth in time as he, immersed neck-deep in his future projects, takes our call to talk about his earlier work, an exhibition of which has been organised by Tasveer in collaboration with Vacheron Constantin. Titled “Divine Moments”, the exhibition opens tomorrow at The Stainless Gallery in the Capital. Rai tells us that the 35 frames to be exhibited in the show have been extracted from his major retrospective mounted at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, in 2008.

And though the works date back to several years, memories of the day, the incidents that led him to freezing a particular moment, are clearly etched in Rai’s mind. “That misty morning of December had such a spiritual feeling about it. With the man and the animal together in perfect harmony in the picture, it brings out the irony that the world can be so unpredictable. It was Ayodhya the day before,” recalls Rai referring to the image titled ‘The Day Before – Ayodhya, 1992’ in which a sadhu is extending an offering to a passerby and a monkey perched on a wall. Working for a news magazine back in 1992, Rai was sent to cover the Ayodhya riots.

According to Rai, these moments are god-gifted and rare because nobody has manufactured or designed them. “These are the moments when you work keeping out the editorial needs. But even when you are assigned a job and you have to listen to the dictates of editorial needs, you just take off,” elaborates the celebrated photographer when asked if the work shown here would classify as being different from the rest of his oeuvre in terms of spiritual content.

Remembering another shot, ‘Stilled by the rain, Gurgaon’, which he clicked while going to his village, the lensman says, “It was drizzling and I was driving towards my village. The bull just wouldn’t move. The stillness of the rain had a meditative effect all over. In such weather, you can feel either elated or depressed.” A picture that speaks to you, he feels, is produced when body, mind and spirit come together in that one moment, and the exhibition offers several such gems where you can witness the moment.

Moving forth Rai reveals about his forthcoming book on trees, titled “Whispers”, which he plans to release by the end of this year. “I am editing it currently. I think it will be one of my best works,” says Rai, adding that with another book on clouds and monsoons scheduled to be released next year he is drifting towards nature. (The exhibition is on at The Stainless Gallery, Ground Floor, Mira Corporate Suites 1 & 2, Old Ishwar Nagar, Okhla Crossing, Mathura Road, New Delhi, from September 15 to 25.)