PHOTOS: An Amazing Eye For The Colors Of India


In the early 1970s, when many professional photographers took black-and-white photographs, Raghubir Singh pioneered the use of colour film to capture scenes from his home country of India.

“The basic condition of the west,” he wrote in his 1998 book, “the river of colors,” is a guilt associated with death – black is indivisible.” “The basic condition in India, however, is a cycle of rebirth, in which color is not only an essential element but also a deep internal source.”

A red-tinted wedding party, an orange roadside vendor selling purplish red baskets, terra-cotta views and green monsoon skies: singh’s work captures the energy of everyday life in India.

Singh, from a wealthy family in the Indian state of rajasthan, never formally studied photography. But soon after his brother gave singer, 14, his first camera, he became obsessed with the work of French street photographer henri cartier-bresson. Singh’s parents own Cartier bresson’s “beautiful jaipur”, which became his textbook.

After college, he began working as a photojournalist for American publications, including national geographic and the New York times. And there’s a big advantage: you can use color film for free.

Shivji Joshi, a photographer and retired professor at jodhpur university, says his work exposes westerners to real indians. “The images taken by Raghubir Singh show foreigners – or rather, everyone – that India is not just a snake charmer,” joshi said. Although singh lives in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York, most of his works feature his native India.

Josh, who likes singh from rajasthan, says his work captures “a sense of love and respect for his country”.

“Singh’s modernism,” a retrospective of singh’s work, will be on display at Met Breuer in New York on Jan. 2, before heading to the art museum in Houston and the royal Ontario museum in Toronto.

We talked to josh about why singh is still useful today. The interview was edited long and clearly.

Singh died of a heart attack in 1999 when he was 56. Why is it important to remember him now?

His works are popular with art lovers and critics for their authenticity, simplicity and honesty. He shows the complexity of India – its rich cultural, humanitarian and spiritual values. He showed a land of grandeur and simplicity and enthusiasm.

What is remarkable about all his images is that they are very colorful.

When black-and-white photography became popular and more respected, singh chose to use color. And I do understand his choice, because color plays a key role in Indian life — we have colorful religious festivals or celebrations, we have colorful costumes, colorful decorations and walls of houses — and even the colorful rangolis [color patterns] at the door of the house. Therefore, only color photography is suitable for recording life in India.

Take a picture of the fruit seller. His use of the color is well documented in this color – it is divided into two frames to show that delicious oranges and apples are out of reach for boys – and they may not be affordable. Black and white photography cannot show the exact difference between yellow and red.


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