Easily the one person to look up to, Raghu Rai has long been an inspiration to many. He’s known to be a role model and a mentor to many eminent photographers.
Because of his work of near universal appeal, not only do photographers know him but he’s quite a well known name among people who’ve probably never even held a camera! That’s Raghu Rai’s magic – a name synonymous with Indian photography!
Shefalli, Co-Founder of PhotoConcierge met with this iconic personality for a quick interview. On a hot sunny day, while Raghu Rai was pruning his garden whilst mentoring his young gardener on techniques for better gardening, he engaged in an enthralling conversation with Shefalii. Read on!
Shefalii: What do you have to say about the technology driven photography world?
Raghu Rai: Technology has made everything seem so easy. Look at the myriad mobile phones we have around and their cameras. People can easily create picture jokes and there are thousands of them floating. Definitely this bit is interesting. However things have remained the same even now as in 1970’s. I see a lot of illiterate people staying as photographers. When I mean illiteracy, it is towards knowledge on photographer and nothing else. In the last few decades, only the scale has changed enormously but the fact remains that most are illiterates. It is sad that most of them do not want to be intellects in this line and considering advancements in technology, you can still embrace it while building your knowledge. In fact I used to to jokingly tell my friends and students that one day, we will have chips put inside our heads and as you wink your eyes, an image is captured. Ironically, I heard they are developing the very same technology in some corner of the world. I love DSLR. Ever since I moved to DSLR, i have not used my old cameras; but that does not mean I rely on the camera totally. I use the technology to better my images.
Shefalii: What is the state of young minds now? Of course you cant speak for every mind but what is it for majority of them?
Raghu Rai: It is sinful what is being done to the young minds. They are not given time and space to develop their own identity or understand their passion. One illiterate reads something in a magazine or internet and clones his friend to be another illiterate. It is the fast food generation. Most of them do not even observe every inch of the space they are dealing with. Its just a quick glance or even less. Digital world has made the journey so easy for them – there is auto this, auto that, where one need not use his/ her brains. Visual literacy in the current scenario is quite sad, you have happy snappy guys and how long can one remain in this zone? When people stay illiterate, they are programmed to think in one particular way. They will never create their own images but go by the techniques which some other photographer has used in the magazine or internet
Shefalii: With so many images available in the market, how do you even think the photographer make money?
Raghu Rai: There is surely a space for everyone and there are buyers for everything. Right from worst photographers to best photographers, we have buyers at all scales.
Shefalii: Do you think going to a photography school is the only way forward for bringing in good photographers
Raghu Rai: A good student of life and nature will have patience inculcated into his system. He will have all the passion in his life to be a good photographer. However how many do you think have patience for this? If there is no passion and patience to learn there is no point in even being a photographer. In our institute the mentors take two months to research on a topic before it is taken to the students. Even now, despite the quality of classes that we offer in our institute, we only have probably four best students in a class, most of the times. There was this photographer from abroad who joined our institute. She was going through a very bad relationship break up. My only advise to her was to move forward and evolve as a photographer which was in her hands. We cant stop the problem but we can work on being a good photographer. She was one of our best student. Also photographers spend a lot of time explaining their photographs. Why? Images should speak and not your words on top of it
Shefalii: In continuation to what we spoke earlier, what are your thoughts on mobile phone photography? Can it change the industry itself?
Raghu Rai: It will surely evolve further. We are at a very young age. Twenty years is too less a time for anything to eat away any market. It has made its mark,undoubtedly but it has a long way to go. I am loving the changes
Shefalii: What is Raghu Rai’s must have lens?
Raghu Rai: I would always prefer to carry a Nikkor 28-70 mm
Shefalii: Is it really true that you prefer to photograph India than anywhere else?
Raghu Rai: At the end I love my country and there is so much to photograph here and I like to do it. I am invited to do a lot of assignments outside India which I do and also this “One day in life” kind of events which I also oblige; however my body of work is from India.
Shefalii: What is next from Raghu Rai’s world?
Raghu Rai: I don’t know yet. But I am working on this book – a book on world. Since I have been mostly photographing India, it could be an interesting take on what my view is of the world. My publisher wants the book to be titled ‘Raghu Rai and The World’. It is yet to be finalized though.
Shefalii: What would be your advise for younger generation?
Raghu Rai: As a creator, if you are creating images that are pretty and predictable – you are anti creative. Take wildlife photography for example. If it is a tiger, they would only want to do a close up of a Tiger – tiger yawning, staring, walling. Where is creativity in it? Most of the photographers do not show the landscape or the habitat the animal lives in. Get onto the field, have the passion going and be open for learning
Shefalii: What would be your advice for us? For PhotoConcierge?
Raghu Rai: It is your journey and you have to live it. I can’t offer much of an advice since you are the one who is living it. Do well and set magical experience and never the regular ones.
Well, thanks a ton Mr. Raghu Rai! Here’s hoping our journey to be a magical and worthwhile one!