When we meet Raghu Rai in his Mehrauli office a few days before the launch of Trees (Photoink,Rs 1,800),his latest book on,well,trees,its hard to steer clear of philosophical pondering. Weve all seen iconic photographs that have made headlines in various print publications the gut-wrenching face of a child half buried after the Bhopal gas tragedy,of Mother Teresa,or his frequent and nuanced photographs of streets and people. While most of his work is a documentation of the countrys rapidly changing political and cultural history,Trees appears to be the silent pauses between those hurried affairs.
During various assignments,one is programmed to look for subjects. But creativity happens when youre free from desires,needs and processes. When you dont look for it,the unseen reveals itself. These images are not here to just stay with you. They touch you, says the 71-year-old. Trees is a result of Rais extensive travels and assignments across the country (except one in Australia and one in Mexico) since the 70s and comprises 80 untitled photographs of what he calls,silent witnesses. Forty-five photographs from the book have been exhibited at Photoink gallery. All in black-and-white (the book will soon be followed by a series on trees in colour),Rais 40 years of shooting trees took one-and-a-half years of sifting,sorting and selecting. The photographs take a leap from photojournalism and is a haunting,poetic expression of his love for nature.
The man is always on the move,and when not photographing,Rai is a strong advocate of digitising his older works or sifting out themes from his gigantic collection. Apart from trees,Rais fascination with nature also involves clouds and rocks,on which books are in the pipeline,along with those on Kolkata in colour,Vijaynagar and Mahakumbh.
Trees is on at Photoink,
MGF Hyundai Building,Ground Floor,1 Jhandewalan,till November 30. Mondays by appointment only.