Content and energy go into the perfect frame, Raghu Rai tells HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
The act of photography is fulfilling in itself for photographer Raghu Rai. “When I look through the camera, my energies get concentrated and I can focus on different aspects of life and nature with intensity, the intensity that helps you connect with every inch of space and see what’s going on,” he says. In town for an exhibition of his photographs, Rai talks about the right moment to take a photograph. “It is thanks to the discipline of more than 45 years. When you walk through the streets and by-lanes of life, you realize that it is the energy and expression within this play that asks you to connect with it.”
Rai’s tryst with photography began when he joined The Statesman in 1966. “Practise makes a man perfect. The most important aspect of a creative journey is to be at it all the time. Then it takes you toward intuitive moments.”
These intuitive moments then guide the artist toward a good photograph, which for Rai is about freshness, framing, composition, content and energy. Most of the time, it is people who carry the energy in his photographs, feels Rai.
“If you visit the most beautiful temple, church or mosque, and if people don’t invest their energy into them, no gods are going to appear. Humans are important elements of this planet. It makes no difference where you are shooting, what’s important is what you capture should have the power to stay alive.”
More specifically, these people that he captures are always his countrymen. Rai never ventured out of India for his photographs. “It’s easy to flirt around everywhere, but it’s far richer and more fulfilling to have one strong deep love affair. And I have that affair with my country. India is my whole world.”
Rai is known for his many photo-books — on Delhi, The Sikhs, Calcutta, Khajuraho, Taj Mahal, Tibet in Exile, India, and Mother Teresa, apart from a documentary on the Bhopal disaster which has been exhibited around the world in Europe, America, India and Southeast Asia. His photographs have also been published worldwide in publications including Time, The New Yorker and New York Times.
What fascinates him about his country is its dynamism, even in everyday life. But then again, this constant movement and change is universal. “Life is never the same at any given point, situations keep changing. This change is a challenging especially in the equations of daily life and the way that it is lived. ”
Another universal life truth that Rai has realised is that of learning. “Life is a continuous learning process and there is no end to it. But if you are creatively engaged, this intensity of involvement is deeper and it enriches you. That’s a fulfilling experience.”
And photography is not just an experience. “Photography is my religion, and I can’t lie or play games in my religion. I’m a faithful pilgrim to life.”