«India’s eyes see only color!» said once Raghubir Singh, the pioneer of photography, who worked from the late 1960s until his death. Raghubir Singh was an Indian, self-taught photographer, most known for his landscapes and documentary-style photographs of the people of India. During his career he worked with National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker and Time. In the early 1970s, he was one of the first photographers to reinvent the use of color at a time when color photography was still a marginal art form.
While he was descendant of an aristocratic family in Rajasthan, he lived in many countries, such as Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York, but he was always returning back to India, recording the cultural richness and the colorful beauty of his country. His influences were too many – from Henri Cartier-Bresson and the great Indian director Satyajit Ray to William Gedney and the Rajasthani miniatures, as well as Mughal paintings – but the way he saw art and life was personal and unique.
According to Raghubir Singh: «The true Indian artist cannot ignore the blessing of colour… Indians know colour through intuition, while the West tries to know it through the mind. Indeed, India is a river of colour. In my home in Jaipur, black was a colour we shunned, in spite of the dinner jackets that the British brought in. We associated it with evil. When the monsoon breaks and the dusty-brown of the desert becomes a wet-brown dappled by lush greens, the lariya colour also leaps to life through clothing, its greens and yellows assuming a consonance with nature. In the summer, pale colours dispel the heat. At death, the monochrome sheen of white is the colour of mourning; but it is also a colour of life – it is the colour that bonds life and death, because unlike black it is receptive to the whole chromatic scale of colour!»
Singh published 14 well-received books on the Ganges, Calcutta, Benares, his native Rajasthan, Grand Trunk Road, and the Hindustan Ambassador car. Today, his work is part of the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, amongst others.
In 1972, he married Anne de Henning, also a photographer, and the couple had a daughter, Devika Singh. Raghubir Singh died in 1999, at the age of 59, of a heart attack. Upon his death, the art critic Max Kozloff wrote «If you can imagine what a Rajput miniaturist could have learned from Henri Cartier-Bresson, you’ll have a glimmer of Raghubir Singh’s aesthetic!»
The retrospective Exhibition “Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs“, that present on January 2, 2018 in MET Breuer, New York, places his work at the crossroads of Western Modernism and Traditional Indian Imagery of the world. The organizer of the exhibition, Mia Fineman, who wants to shows this sovereign character of the Project, will present 85 photos of Raghubir Singh, in contrast to the work of modern artists, as well as the Indian works that influenced him. In fact, she said: «In his artistic career, Raghubir Singh forged a clear Indian Style in Modernist Photography, and he clearly belongs to!»
So, here are 15 of his most famous photographs:
For more information, please visit his Official Site: Raghubir Singh