Raghu Rai (born in December 1942) qualified as a civil engineer, started photography at the age of 23 in 1965. He joined The Statesman
newspaper as their chief photographer (1966 to 1976), and was then Picture Editor with Sunday
—a weekly news magazine published from Calcutta (1977 to 1980).
In 1971, impressed by Rai’s exhibition at Gallery Delpire
, Paris, the legendary photographer Henri Cartier Bresson
nominated him to Magnum Photos
, the world’s most prestigious photographer’s cooperative which Rai could start only in 1977, Rai took over as Picture Editor-Visualiser- Photographer of India Today
, India’s leading news magazine in its formative years. He worked on special issues and designs, contributing trailblazing picture essays on social, political and cultural themes of the decade (1982 to 1991).
He was awarded the "Padmashree" in 1972 for the body of works he produced on Bangladesh refugees, the war and its surrender. In 1992 he was awarded “Photographer of the Year” in the United States for the story “Human Management of Wildlife in India”
published in National Geographic
. In 2009 he was conferred Officier des Arts et des Lettres
by French Government.
His photo essays have appeared in many of the world’s leading magazines and newspapers - including Time
, GEO, Le Figaro, Le Monde
, Die Welt, The New York Times
, Sunday The Times-London, Newsweek
, D magazine, Marie Claire, The Independent and The New Yorker
. He has been an adjudicator for World Press Photo
contest, Amsterdam and UNESCO’s International Photo Contest for many times.
Currently, Raghu Rai lives in New Delhi and is working on his 57th book.
Rai has specialized in extensive coverage of India. He has produced a lot of books, including Raghu Rai's Delhi
, The Sikhs
, Taj Mahal
, Tibet in Exile
, and Mother Teresa
. His photo essays have appeared in many magazines and newspapers.
For Greenpeace, he has completed an in-depth documentary project on the chemical disaster at Bhopal
in 1984, which he covered as a journalist with India Today
, and on its ongoing effects on the lives of gas victims. This work resulted in a book, Exposure: A Corporate Crime
and three exhibitions that toured Europe, America, India and southeast Asia after 2004, the 20th anniversary of the disaster. Rai wanted the exhibition to support the many survivors through creating greater awareness, both about the tragedy, and about the victims – many who are still uncompensated – who continue to live in the contaminated environment around Bhopal.
In 2003, while on an assignment for Geo Magazine in Bombay City, he switched to using a digital Nikon D100 camera "and from that moment to today, I haven't been able to go back to using film."
In 2017, Avani Rai, his daughter followed her father on one of his trips to Kashmir to get an insight into his life and know him better. She documented this journey and released a documentary on it called Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait
. It depicts a historical narrative through Raghu Rai's photographs through time, as he tells some of his unique experiences that not only affected him deeply but also important landmarks in the young yet crucial history of India. It was executive produced by Anurag Kashyap.
Rai was awarded the "Padmashree" in 1971, one of India’s highest civilian awards ever given to a photographer. In 1992, his National Geographic
cover story Human Management of Wildlife in India won him widespread critical acclaim for the piece. Besides winning many national and international awards, Rai has exhibited his works in London, Paris, New York, Hamburg, Prague, Tokyo, Zurich and Sydney. His photo essays have appeared in many of the world’s leading magazines and newspapers.
He has served three times on the jury of the World Press Photo and twice on the jury of UNESCO’s International Photo Contest.
Raghu Rai lives in Delhi with his family and continues to be a correspondent of Magnum Photos.
Source: Magnum Photos