'There are worlds within worlds here'

Ace photographer Raghu Rai was in the City to kickstart a photography contest recently. “In creativity and art, there are no boundaries,” says the soft spoken, self-effacing man as he recounts with nostalgia, the photograph of a baby donkey that was published in the London Times in 1966 and splashed across half-a-page, a photograph that set him firmly on the road to success.

“It was shot with a simple Agfa camera and I never dreamt that my brother would send it to England and it would actually make it to print. Today, with digital technology at our fingertips, we are able to judge instantly what we have shot without any dark room hassles or long waiting periods. Young photographers today can use the power of technology creatively to take brilliant pictures and blend art and social commentary together. Take technology by the horns and use it for your benefit,” he advises.

Whether it was capturing the private moments in the daily routine of Mother Teresa or uncovering the heart-rending stories of the Bhopal gas tragedy or freezing for ever on celluloid the flow of rain water on Gomateshwara’, Rai has always managed to convey an emotion and impact through his photos effectively, that is almost ‘palpable.

“India as a country is a photographer’s dreamscape with no dearth of subjects or inspiration. Its breath-taking landscapes, sweeping disasters, colourful festivals, wily politicians and men and women in the street evocatively reflect the multi-faceted dimensions of our vast and timeless land with their everyday lives. I don’t need to travel the world to take good pictures when there are worlds within worlds, right here.” he says.

His Bhopal story served to remind the world that the tragedy is far from over and still playing itself out in people’s lives and homes.

Who can erase the image of the dead baby's face, like a discarded doll, buried under the rubble or the old man carrying his wife over his shoulder to the burial ground?

Whether it’s a picture of Indira Gandhi during her life or lying in state in death, a militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale or a pensive Satyajit Ray, what sets Rai’s sensitive and powerful images apart are his meticulous eye for nuanced detail that has carved him a special niche in the art and photography world and the hearts of his viewing public.

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