Review by Sarmistha Maiti
August 12, 2012


Divine Moments
Raghu Rai
July 13-24, 2012
Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Kolkata

“In moments of revelations when the relevant and the irrelevant separate themselves to merge again –
The emergence of the unseen and the revelation of the unknown carries the current of the divine –The experience becomes a Darshan.
So in moments of connectivity you allow the supreme energy to work through you.
Divine interventions happens when exploration become a meditative pursuit.”
— Raghu Rai l

Divine Moments, the recent exhibition of Raghu Rai, presented by Vaceron Constantine, Tasveer and the Seagull Foundation for the Arts in Kolkata was an ensemble of the philosophical journey of the photographer whose clicks of moments have eventually developed into saga of human experience and realization of its invariable grey shades of life and death. 26 photographic prints present in the exhibition were taken in different phases of Rai’s career in black and white or more appropriately in grey-scale as we would refer to it today began from 1965 onwards. A Baby Donkey, an image taken near Delhi in 1965 during beginning of his career of a photojournalist till Building Hyderabad Highway taken in 2004 was present in this exhibition.

The concept of this show was to present Rai’s visual palette as a reflection of the greater realisation through miniscule moments that come and go but leave deep impressions within and hence those become darshan or philosophy to serve bigger ends. To evaluate Rai’s works or to showcase the best of his works cannot be the host’s target at all. It was not here as well. But of course the designing of the show with the spiritual anecdote and Rai himself explaining through poetry what Divine Moments in fact relate to might look a bit cliché but definitely for larger audience, it catered to an easier understanding of the approach because Ragu Rai’s images are enough to captivate one’s attention though so simple in representation and that’s why so meaningful which needs to be underlined at times and hence ‘Divine Moments’ attempted to do so.

In the entire series, a few images seemed timeless and invaluable. Indira Gandhi on Himalayas (1972), M.S. Subbulakshmi Performing on Stage (1987), Mother Consoling Child (1970), Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia in his Practice (1988) were those moments only Rai could have captured. In fact, no moment is replicable.

Raghu Rai is known as the man who redefined photojournalism in India. In fact, he was the man who redefined the way of seeing, the perception of vision technically if we say. The importance of his photography never propelled with the reverence of his technical sense in the forefront for his audience but always put the viewers in awe of his exclusive treatment of the content, which were so candid, yet so weighty in such simplistic manner. And his technical sense always remained the undercurrent behind such execution without which such imageries could have been clicked.

Ganapati Celebration in Mumbai (2001), Children in Traffic in Brabourne Road (1991), Cows and Men in Burning Ghat, Varanasi (2003), Wheat Thrashing, Humayun’s Tomb (1966), Women Pilgrims, Varanasi (1974), Under Mango Grove in UP Village (1994) were some of the other memorable images that were on display in the show. Detailing in grey scale and grainy effect on the photographic paper gave a brilliant quality to these images that were taken using a film negative. The feel of the film was an additional perk for the audience of this exhibition to meet Raghu Rai, the maestro of visual imagery in photographic language after a long time in the City of Joy.