The Story of Raghu Rai, an Indian legend

“Photography takes me everywhere. What takes away your heartbeat becomes your muse for the moment.”- Raghu Rai

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A Padma Sri awardee, Raghunath Rai Chowdhry, who goes by his famous alias Raghu Rai, is a photographer and a veteran photojournalist. He was protégé of French humanist photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who appointed him to Magnum Photos back in 1977.

Raghu Rai started a little over five decades back to become the legendary personality he is. It was a donkey that made Raghu Rai see the art of photography from a new lens. His illustrious career showcases many magnificent names like Time, Life, The New York Times, and Sunday Times. A trained civil engineer from the early 60s, he began his photography career in 1965 and joined the staff of The Statesman, a New Delhi publication, a year later. In 1976, he started freelancing, and from 1982 until 1992, Rai served as director of photography for India Today. He also served on the jury for World Press Photo from 1990 to 1997. He is famous for his book, ‘Reflections in Colour and Reflections in Black and White.’

Raghu believes in capturing the time we live in, instantiated by his most iconic pictures ranging from the Humayun’s Tomb to a day in office of Indira Gandhi, and PM Modi’s charm on stage- he is not limited to any domain but time. Renowned for his raw black-and-white photographs, he is upfront and open on his outlook to changing realities to today’s world.

“With black-and-white, one can create visual harmony in the sense that the visual noise and distortion in the picture come through like a dialogue”


Raghu emphasizes on the importance of the telling detail and the captured moment: the crucial accent that gives greater meaning to the whole. "Either you capture the mystery of things or you reveal the mystery," he explains. "Everything else is just information."

He has become one of the foremost chroniclers, charting the faces of changing India from Mrs Gandhi and Mother Teresa to the victims of Bhopal. His photographs are famed for capturing the country's brutality and its beauty, often within a single frame. His impressive body of work was featured in 2010, in a retrospective at the Aicon Gallery in central London and in a landmark exhibition at the Whitechapel.

With a World Press Award to his name, countless accolades, famous book, literary festivals, and many exhibitions featuring his work, Raghu Rai’s story is nothing short of a legend that India takes pride in.

Remembering his dad, he once said, "He lived to see my success, and then he was very happy."

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