Photos: End of an era with the demise of S Paul, doyen of Indian photojournalism

S Paul, a path-breaker in the field of Indian photojournalism transformed an era of romantic and pictorial photography into one of vibrant, living images. Considered the Henri Cartier Bresson of India, the ace-photographer passed away on August 16, 2017 in New Delhi.

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2017 04:18 PM IST 9 Photos
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Renowned Indian Photographer S Paul, the father of modern Indian photojournalism passed away at the age of 88, at his Surya Nagar residence in Sahibabad at 9.30 p.m on Wednesday August 16, 2017. Accompanying him on his pyre was an old analog camera. (Pramod Pushkarna)

Renowned Indian Photographer S Paul, the father of modern Indian photojournalism passed away at the age of 88, at his Surya Nagar residence in Sahibabad at 9.30 p.m on Wednesday August 16, 2017. Accompanying him on his pyre was an old analog camera. (Pramod Pushkarna)

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Born on August 19, 1929, in Jhang, undivided India’s Punjab, S Paul migrated along with his family to India after partition. Critically acclaimed photographer Raghu Rai was introduced to the camera by Paul - his elder brother. (S Paul)

Born on August 19, 1929, in Jhang, undivided India’s Punjab, S Paul migrated along with his family to India after partition. Critically acclaimed photographer Raghu Rai was introduced to the camera by Paul - his elder brother. (S Paul)

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‘He picked up his first camera in his 20s; his first camera was the Rolleiflex but he was a man who liked to work with various brands of camera. He had at least a hundred cameras. I believe the Nikon D800 was his favourite, it had 36 megapixels after all.’ said Raghu Rai on Paul’s enthusiasm for the camera.

‘He picked up his first camera in his 20s; his first camera was the Rolleiflex but he was a man who liked to work with various brands of camera. He had at least a hundred cameras. I believe the Nikon D800 was his favourite, it had 36 megapixels after all.’ said Raghu Rai on Paul’s enthusiasm for the camera.

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S Paul began his professional career as a draftsman in Shimla and picked up photography in his spare time. When his photographs were featured in three British publications – Amateur Photographer, Miniature Camera and Miniature Camera World, he came to the notice of the Himachal Pradesh Government, and was invited to set up a photography department in the state.

S Paul began his professional career as a draftsman in Shimla and picked up photography in his spare time. When his photographs were featured in three British publications – Amateur Photographer, Miniature Camera and Miniature Camera World, he came to the notice of the Himachal Pradesh Government, and was invited to set up a photography department in the state.

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Remembering him, World Press Photo Awardee Bhawan Singh, said, ‘he was the best photographer for creative work. He had a knack for daily life photos.’ Raghu Rai adds, ‘We talk of ‘influences’ today but at that time there was no one to be influenced by. Photography then was just romanticism or pictoralism – it meant taking pictures of gnarled trees, pretty women, old men and children. He was the first one to stand against this trend. His portraits had emotion, his landscapes were meaningfully done.’

Remembering him, World Press Photo Awardee Bhawan Singh, said, ‘he was the best photographer for creative work. He had a knack for daily life photos.’ Raghu Rai adds, ‘We talk of ‘influences’ today but at that time there was no one to be influenced by. Photography then was just romanticism or pictoralism – it meant taking pictures of gnarled trees, pretty women, old men and children. He was the first one to stand against this trend. His portraits had emotion, his landscapes were meaningfully done.’

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S Paul’s career in photography saw a stint as the Indian Railways’ Chief photographer and subsequently a move to the Indian Express as their Chief of Photography. Paul’s work during his association with the paper came to define photography at the Indian Express. He eventually retired from the newspaper 26 years later in 1989.

S Paul’s career in photography saw a stint as the Indian Railways’ Chief photographer and subsequently a move to the Indian Express as their Chief of Photography. Paul’s work during his association with the paper came to define photography at the Indian Express. He eventually retired from the newspaper 26 years later in 1989.

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Paul holds the accolade of being the first Indian to be profiled by The British Journal of Photography in 1967 and also the first Indian to win the Nikon International Photo Contest in 1971. He rose to the stature of a doyen in Indian Photography with the B&W Magazine describing him as ‘The Henri Cartier Bresson of India’.

Paul holds the accolade of being the first Indian to be profiled by The British Journal of Photography in 1967 and also the first Indian to win the Nikon International Photo Contest in 1971. He rose to the stature of a doyen in Indian Photography with the B&W Magazine describing him as ‘The Henri Cartier Bresson of India’.

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Summarising his brother’s persona, Raghu Rai said, ‘My brother was a homebound man, a private man. He didn’t go abroad, or meet people. He chose not to fly high. Most of his work was in and around Delhi. He didn’t interact much except with Indian photographers and so anyone who was serious about photography went to him. He had influence, they felt connected to him.’ (Sunil Saxena / HT File)

Summarising his brother’s persona, Raghu Rai said, ‘My brother was a homebound man, a private man. He didn’t go abroad, or meet people. He chose not to fly high. Most of his work was in and around Delhi. He didn’t interact much except with Indian photographers and so anyone who was serious about photography went to him. He had influence, they felt connected to him.’ (Sunil Saxena / HT File)

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‘A photographer is best remembered by his photos. But if I were to put it in words I would say that he turned romantic and pictorial photography into a vibrant, living image.’, Rai added.

‘A photographer is best remembered by his photos. But if I were to put it in words I would say that he turned romantic and pictorial photography into a vibrant, living image.’, Rai added.

UPDATED ON AUG 18, 2017 04:18 PM IST
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