Constellation Cafe Books : Evening Ragas
Is it the love for the stories by Kipling, Ruskin Bond, E.M Foster and Dalrymple or is it plain nostalgia, I can’t really say. All I know is that there are images by Derry Moore which left me speechless when I first discovered them online. Soon I was trying to find out more about them and found quite a lot of his work on his website. But there is something quite very different when you see prints vs images on a computer screen. Luckily, there was more coming my way.
Today I’m discussing Derry Moore’s beautiful book titled “Evening Ragas”. Its a little surprising that I had never heard of him before nor had I ever seen his work but then I’m quite ignorant and I left it at that (learning more every day). After a little more research, I found out that he’d been there for quite a long time (Born 39′) and has photographed the late Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II, Ronald Reagan, Dawid Bowie, Indra Gandhi and many more. All in all a fantastic photographer, established not only in portrait but also in architecture and interiors.
Evening Ragas started as a project to document the world of the Raj which was slowly ebbing away. But slowly the project entered another mood, into finding the merger between Indian royal esthetics and the European design elements which the British had brought in with them. Finally the photographs not only study the lifestyle of royalty but also the struggle of ego and individuality between the fair and brown skinned residents of these interiors.
Now about the make. At first what catches your attention is the grey tones. His photographs have a delicate balance of tones, they are strong yet never really harsh with beautiful subtle contrast. The book is hardbound, published by John Murray Publishers in London. I here have the first edition of the book from 1997 and its out of print for some time now. The book is heavy, as if representing a relic from the Raj, a icon of the grandness and the weight of the royalties. The images are printed without a border of any sort, taking up full pages. The publisher makes a note of this,
“The photographs are presented in full page without margins or captions and in geographical or logical order. They have been selected both for visual impact and to capture the spirit and atmosphere of the India that Derry Moore experienced.”
The paper seems a lot more gloss than matte and to be honest the printing lacks texture and detail. So all in all its bad printing for me. There is no richness in the pictures and it was really disappointing but only in terms of the print. As for the pictures themselves, they are brilliant. Beautiful, rich and poetic, they explore the space and study the faces with patience and intoxicating smoothness. Moore shines through with his portraits of women, they have not only depth in character but a charm which matches the atmosphere in every way. 102 pictures later, the book ends with captions and a small thank you note by the photographer.
Now I would have ended the notes here but as I said there was more. Some time ago I had gone to the India Art Fair and came upon the same series exhibited by Tasveer, a local gallery here in New Delhi. Last night I was invited to the opening for Evening Ragas show in New Delhi and to meet Derry Moore himself.
Big huge prints finally! Now I didn’t like how Tasveer had curated the art fair presentation (made it look like a architecture study) but this one was quite well done. I guess because of Damiani (the co-sponsor for the event) a little partial to portraits of women but then I love how Moore handles them so it all very fantastic. After a glass of red wine and a small discussion with Moore about the work I got my hands on the new version of the book, printed by Tasveer. Now this book is a little smaller and the images even smaller because of the newly added margins. The introduction too has been changed cut down, almost like a summary. Bad move but one thing which does become better with the new book is that the images are printed so much better, more contrast on beautiful matte paper. In the visual sense, the collection too has been curated again and now it contains not only black and whites but also many color images. But in totality, the number of images have fallen from 102 to 97.
I don’t think the new version of the book is out for sale as it was custom printed by Tasveer in collaboration with Damiani, only for the show. Also the old version of the book is out of print so you’ll have to hunt a little bit for it. But if you’re in Delhi, I’d highly recommend dropping down at Gallery Art Motif (F 213 C, Lado Sarai, New Delhi – 110 030) from 23rd February – 5th March 2013 where the exhibition continues. Please note that the exhibit doesn’t feature all 97 images but 60 limited edition prints.