What Raghu Rai does to India in black & white, Raghubir Singh does in color. He creates stories of nostalgia, culture and life, isolating them out of the ever existing chaos which exists around him. I don’t think any photographer comes close to him when it comes to color and India (well maybe Steve McCurry, but then thats another story). What I enjoy most about him is that he sees things in a very innocent way, absorbing everything from events of conflict to intimacy in the same way, without bias.
Now before we had access to order books online, hunting for these delicacies used to be a challenge in itself. And I found this book hidden in a bookstore somewhere deep inside a underground market in central Delhi. Published by Phaidon, it catches your eye in the very first look. A red Ambassador on its cover, what could be more iconic!
My hardbound copy did have a questionable condition but then I’m sure you can get your hands on a brand new copy. Just to show you how big it is, I’ve compared it to Steve McCurry’s Ungarded Moment. So you can safely say, its somewhere in between a coffee table book and a notebook. And I love that size.
Once you open the book, you’re treated to amazingly well toned prints. The book documents the collective images from journeys which Raghubir Singh took in Ambassadors over thirty years of his career. And what he does it uses the car almost like an extension of his camera, framing life in and around it, cutting through the chaos, guiding the eyes to focused stories.
Since the first time I picked up this book, I’ve felt the same way about it. Raghubir Singh’s images don’t excite me like Raghu Rai’s work, they have no cinematic quality to them. And as I too have tried to shoot out on the streets, I know why. India is not about being cinematic its about layering and a multitude of stories in a single frame. But then what no one else does, Raghubir Singh does with ease. He creates a curious energy, a sense of rhythm which makes you want to get out and explore, makes you want to step out right now and find your own story.
Raghubir Singh published many books but frankly I find this one to be the most exciting. Its a book that you need to see because it pushes you and inspires you to get out and find what you love.