Photography by Hormis Antony Tharakan
Back in my hometown of Ujjain at the time when I was pursuing my Masters degree in science, I had never thought that I would one day take up photography full time, but I was already familiar with Raghu Rai’s work and his pictures left a deep impression on me. They were very different from any other Indian photographer’s work. They were powerful images, which often had a sense of immediacy about them.
In the early seventies, I came to Bombay to practice photography and after a few years I started contributing to JS, a pathbreaking magazine for the youth from The Statesman group. Raghu Rai worked for The Statesman daily as their chief photographer from Delhi. Soon we met and became very good friends ever since. I remember how I used to look forward to the Sunday edition of the newspaper where it carried a photograph on half a page, and often it would be by Raghu. Later he joined India Today and I vividly remember many of his wonderful picture essays which have never been equalled.
Raghu, I slowly discovered had great interest in Hindustani classical music that I too shared. He is most passionate about nature and loves this country and its people with the same passion. I accompanied him once to Agra when he was shooting the Taj Mahal. He suddenly stopped and pointed to a group of exhausted villagers with their belongings on their heads and said, ‘Dekh yaar apne desh ke in pyarey logon ko dekh, inki bholi shaklein dekh, kya baat hai … !’
Once in Delhi when I was staying with him, he returned from a trip abroad. He got out of the car and straight away began tending to his garden. He did that for more than hour and only then did he unload his baggage from the car and entered the house! Even today, at the slightest opportunity he disappears to his farm outside Delhi and is happiest there working with his hands. This passionate energy he invests in his pictures is often very evident. He is one photographer I’ve seen in India who is constantly working. His energy and enthusiasm for life appears to be inexhaustible and one often feels a little older in his presence! His output is staggering and he is at it every day. He has continued working in a style that is intrinsic to him. And his spirit and enthusiasm for life has not dimmed one bit since I met him some 35 years ago. This rasa that he draws from life makes him a true rasik, is amply evident in his compelling images.
Text Mahendra Singh