Over the years, the relationship between politicians of various parties has changed drastically. Earlier, even opponents in the Parliament would be cordial and respectful outside but now that is not the case,” says Praveen Jain, Associate Editor (Photo), The Indian Express, as he browses through the thousands of photographs that he has taken over 35 years of his career as a photojournalist. His exhibition “200 & One” will open at AIFACS gallery in Delhi today.
“I want people, including politicians, to come and see these photographs,” says Jain of the showcase that spans 10 prime ministers, beginning with Indira Gandhi, eight presidents, and countless chief ministers.
The exhibition comes the same week that Jain’s photographs played a crucial role in the Delhi High Court verdict that gave life imprisonment to 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for the 1987 Hashimpura massacre. Jain, 56, will also be sharing these photographs in the exhibition.
“The tension was evident when I entered the neighbourhood. Army men were marching and young men were being dragged out of their homes. I hid behind the bushes and continued to take photos despite being stopped by the army,” recalls Jain of May 22, 1987, when Meerut and surrounding areas were engulfed in communal riots, and PAC personnel allegedly killed 38 men.
The incident is just one of the numerous tense moments photographed by Jain since he joined the news magazine Delhi Recorder in 1983. He worked at Surya India, India Week, Sunday Mail and The Pioneer, before joining The Indian Express as its national photo editor in 1995. “A photojournalist not only has to be at the right place at the right time but should also be able to decide what needs to be photographed. One has to be patient,” says the self-taught photographer who learnt the nuances of photojournalism by assisting S Paul, the then photo editor at The Indian Express, for several months in 1981-82.
“I would travel from Rohtak to Delhi everyday. I would hold his bag, make his morning tea, and in return he gave me a stipend and taught me photography,” recalls Jain.