He is famous for his spectacular photographs, but veteran photographer Raghu Rai is also known for supporting social causes. Lately, he has been involved with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). Now, Rai is set to judge a photography competition at the Powai Sarvajanin Durgotsav called Festive Frames. The event is being organised by the Powai Bengali Welfare Association in partnership with Hindustan Times.
“Durga Puja is a celebration during which the whole world goes mad. There’s a lot of fun, joy and colour. I am hoping the photographs will depict that,” says Rai.
Durga Puja is one of the most photographed events in the country. Rai, however, is looking forward to capturing the celebration in a fresh and unique manner. “The photograph must reflect that special energy. Each picture has its own magic. However, I would really like to click the preparations [for the festival], and the craftsmanship, which showcases the spirit of Durga and her physical form,” he says.
The goddess usually symbolises women empowerment, but Rai disagrees. “Why only women empowerment? Durga could be my mother, and hence, it could be my empowerment,” he says. When asked what advice he’d like to give budding photographers, Rai says, “Shoot from your heart. Connect your eye to the heart, and don’t think.”
While Rai has shot several public figures over a career spanning more than 50 years, his favourite remains the Dalai Lama. “I have been photographing him for 40 years. I’m going to complete my book on him, which will have photos documenting his life, and will show how he used to look as a young man when he came to India right until today, as one of the foremost spiritual leaders of the world,” he says.
Despite his popularity, he isn’t interested in clicking today’s celebrities, as he feels “they tend to get boring beyond a point”.
Currently, Rai is also busy with his photography magazine, Creative Image. “It’s a bi-monthly and showcases the portfolios of young photographers — Indian and international. It has some of the best photographs from around the world,” he says.
Rai also agrees that photography has become more accessible thanks to technology. He feels capturing photographs is all about the human element. “Capturing human emotions is more important than any drama. Often, people take funny photographs and try to turn them into an art form. But art doesn’t happen in the air. Art happens when you dig into the depths of your emotional and spiritual self,” he says.