Raghu Rai

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Raghu Rai
Raghu Rai in 2015
Born1942 (age 81–82)
Occupation(s)photographer, photojournalist
Years active1965 – present

Raghu Rai (born 1942) is an Indian photographer and photojournalist.[1][2] He was a protégé of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who nominated Rai, then a young photojournalist, to join Magnum Photos in 1977.

Rai became a photographer in the mid 1960s, soon joining the staff of The Statesman in New Delhi. In 1976, he left the paper and became a freelance photographer.[citation needed] From 1982 until 1992, Rai was the director of photography for India Today.[3]

He served on the jury for World Press Photo from 1990 to 1997.[4][5] He is known for his books, particularly Raghu Rai's India: Reflections in Colour and Reflections in Black and White.[6][7][8][9]

Early life[edit]

Rai was born in the village of Jhang, Punjab, British India (now in Pakistan),[5][10] the youngest of four children.[5]


Rai started learning photography in 1962 under his elder brother Sharampal Chowdhry (better known as S Paul), who is a photographer. In 1965 he joined "The Statesman" newspaper as its chief photographer.[citation needed] He and his colleague Saeed Naqvi visited Maharishi’s ashram in the spring of 1968, when The Beatles arrived.[11]

Rai left "The Statesman" in 1976 to work as picture editor for "Sunday," a weekly news magazine published in Calcutta. Impressed by an exhibit of his work in Paris in 1971, Henri Cartier-Bresson nominated Rai to join Magnum Photos in 1977.[6]

Rai left "Sunday" in 1980, and worked as a picture editor and photographer at "India Today" during its formative years. From 1982 to 1991, he worked on special issues and designs, contributing picture essays on social, political, and cultural themes.[citation needed]

For Greenpeace, he completed an in-depth documentary project on the chemical disaster at Bhopal in 1984, which he covered as a journalist with India Today in 1984, and on its ongoing effects on the lives of gas victims.[citation needed] This work resulted in a book, Exposure: A Corporate Crime and three exhibitions that toured Europe, America, India and southeast Asia after 2004, the 20th anniversary of the disaster. Rai wanted the exhibition to support the many survivors through creating greater awareness, both about the tragedy, and about the victims who continue to live in the contaminated environment around Bhopal.[12]

In 2003, while on an assignment for Geo Magazine in Bombay City, he switched to using a digital camera "and from that moment to today, I haven't been able to go back to using film."[13]

In 2017, Avani Rai, his daughter followed her father on one of his trips to Kashmir to get an insight into his life and know him better. She released a documentary on this journey called Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait, executive produced by Anurag Kashyap.[14]

Rai has produced more than 18 books focussing on the culture and people of India, including Raghu Rai's Delhi, The Sikhs, Calcutta, Khajuraho, Taj Mahal, Tibet in Exile, India, and Mother Teresa. His photo essays have appeared in many magazines and newspapers including Time, Life, GEO, The New York Times, Sunday Times, Newsweek, The Independent, and the New Yorker.[15] He has served three times on the jury of the World Press Photo, and twice on the jury of UNESCO's International Photo Contest.[5][citation needed]


  • Padmashree in 1972 for work on Bangladesh War[16]
  • Photographer of the Year from USA (1992[vague])[17]
  • Academie des Beaux Arts Photography Award - William Klein 2019[18]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry 2017[19]


  • 1997 Retrospective – National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India.
  • 2002 Raghu Rai's India – a Retrospective, Photofusion, London[20]
  • 2002 Volkart Foundation, Winterthur, Switzerland
  • 2003 Bhopal – Sala Consiliare, Venice, Italy; Photographic Gallery, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2003 Exposure: Portrait of a Corporate Crime – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
  • 2004 Exposure – Drik Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Leica Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2005 Bhopal 1984–2004 – Melkweg Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2005 India – Musei Capitolini Centrale Montemartini, Rome, Italy
  • 2007 Rencontres d'Arles festival, France[21]
  • 2012 My India – FotoFreo, Australia
  • 2013 Trees (Black and white), New Delhi
  • 2014 In Light of India: Photography by Raghu Rai, Hong Kong International Photo Festival, Hong Kong
  • 2015 Trees, Art Alive Art Gallery, Delhi[22]
  • 2016, The Greatest Photographs of Raghu Rai, Ojas Art, New Delhi[23]


  • 1974 A Day in the life of Indira Gandhi, Nachiketa Publications, India
  • 1983 Delhi: A Portrait, Delhi Tourist Development Corporation/Oxford University Press, India/UK
  • 1984 The Sikhs, Lustre Press, India
  • 1985 Indira Gandhi (with Pupul Jayakar), Lustre Press, India
  • 1986/87 Taj Mahal, Times Editions, Singapore; Robert Laffont, France; Rizzoli Publications, USA
  • 1988 Dreams of India, Time Books International, Singapore; (L'Inde), Arthaud, France
  • 1989 Calcutta, Time Books International, India
  • 1990 Delhi and Agra (with Lai Kwok Kin and Nitin Rai), Hunter Publications, Inc., USA
  • 1990/91 Tibet in Esilio, Mondadori, Italy; (Tibet in Exile), Chronicle Books, USA
  • 1991 Khajuraho, Time Books International, India
  • 1994 Raghu Rai's Delhi, Indus/Harper Collins, India
  • 1996/01 Dreams of India, Times Editions, Singapore/Greenwich, UK ISBN 9789812046062
  • 1996 Faith and Compassion: The Life and Work or Mother Teresa, Element Books, USA. ISBN 9781852309121
  • 1997 My Land and Its People, Vadehra Gallery, India
  • 1998 Man, Metal and Steel, Steel Authority of India, Ltd., India
  • 2000 Raghu Rai... in his Own Words, Roli Books, India
  • 2000 Lakshadweep, UT of Lakshadweep, India
  • 2001 Raghu Rai's India – A Retrospective, Asahi Shimbun, Japan
  • 2002 Bhopal Gas Tragedy (with Suroopa Mukherjee), Tulika Publishers, India
  • 2003/04 Saint Mother: A Life Dedicated, Timeless Books, India;Mère Teresa), La Martinière, France
  • 2004 Exposure: Portrait Of A Corporate Crime, Greenpeace, Netherlands
  • 2004 Indira Gandhi: A Living Legacy, Timeless Books, India
  • 2005 Romance of India, Timeless Books, India
  • 2005 Mother Teresa: A Life of Dedication, Harry N. Abrams, USA. ISBN 9780810958753
  • 2008 Raghu Rai's India: Reflections in Colour, Haus Books. ISBN 9781905791965
  • 2010 India's Great Masters: A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Classical Music[24]
  • 2011 The Indians: Portraits From My Album, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-08469-2.[25]
  • 2013 Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom, Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-93-81523-69-8
  • 2013 Trees, PHOTOINK, India
  • 2014 The Tale of Two: An Outgoing and an Incoming Prime Minister
  • 2014 Vijayanagara Empire: Ruins to Resurrection, Niyogi Books. ISBN 978-93-83098-24-8


  1. ^ Raghu Rai: The Man Who Redefined Photojournalism in India
  2. ^ Imaging India
  3. ^ Lee, Kevin (14 November 2012). "Invisible Interview: Raghu Rai, India – Part 1". Invisible Photographer Asia. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Home | World Press Photo". www.worldpressphoto.org. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Day, Elizabeth (17 January 2010). "Raghu Rai | Interview". The Observer. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Pocketful of Rai". Time. 14 March 2011.
  7. ^ Chaudhuri, Zinnia Ray (18 December 2015). "In pictures: Raghu Rai's five-decade career captures the essence of India". Scroll.in. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  8. ^ Bawa, Jaskirat Singh (14 November 2015). "Raghu Rai on the Story Behind His Five Most Iconic Photographs". TheQuint. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  9. ^ "A good photographer needs fire in the belly, says award-winning photojournalist Raghu Rai". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  10. ^ "Oh my god! This was what it used to be". Mid-Day. 11 December 2010.
  11. ^ "The Beatles and Me: In the Maharishi's Ashram, 50 Years Ago". The Wire. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  12. ^ "Picturing disaster". The Hindu. 15 September 2002.
  13. ^ Lee, Kevin (14 November 2012). "Invisible Interview: Raghu Rai, India – Part 3". Invisible Photography Asia. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  14. ^ Ramnath, Nandini (30 July 2018). "In film on Raghu Rai, a daughter looks up to the light and tries to emerge from under the shadow". Scroll.in. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  15. ^ all-about-photo.com. "Raghu Rai". All About Photo. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  16. ^ "Raghu Rai chosen as first recipient of newly instated international photography award". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. 16 September 2019. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  17. ^ all-about-photo.com. "Raghu Rai". All About Photo. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  18. ^ "The Magnum Digest: September 13, 2019". Magnum Photos. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  19. ^ Ahluwalia, Harveen (23 March 2017). "Raghu Rai conferred with Lifetime Achievement award". mint. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  20. ^ "Photography Exhibition: Raghu Rai's India". Photofusion. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Presentation of the festival - Les Rencontres d'Arles". www.rencontres-arles.com. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  22. ^ "Framing Flora". Verve Magazine. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  23. ^ "Picturing Time With Raghu Rai". Verve Magazine. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  24. ^ "Ragas in frames". The Hindu. 20 August 2010.
  25. ^ "Sees, Shoots And Leaves". Tehelka. Vol. 8, no. 9. 5 March 2011. Archived from the original on 25 August 2016.

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