Till 2008, Deepak Puri’s office in the PTI building in Delhi served the purpose of an archive of sorts. Defining photographs from the last two decades — almost 180-plus prints — covered the walls. As South Asia general manager and photo editor of Time for 31 years, Puri has an enviable collection of photographs taken by the likes of Raghu Rai, Prashant Panjiar, Sebastiao Salgado, James Nachtwey and Dayanita Singh, among others. Finally, they are all out in the public domain, as Puri has donated the prints to the upcoming Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) in Bangalore.
“These photos are precious, they archive the 20th century, and need to be seen by a wider audience,” says Puri, 63, over the phone.Tasveer Gallery, which is heralding MAP, has also recently launched a book called The Deepak Puri Collection: Legacy of Photojournalism. From a 1997 photo of the Dalai Lama in meditation by Diane Barker; a Dalit woman holding a rifle, shot in Bihar by Karen Davies; to snapshots from the Ardh Maha Kumbh Mela taken in 1999 by Dieter Ludwig; and the 1992 famine in Somalia by Nachtwey – the book focuses on definitive milestones, and a wide array of emotions. The civil war in Afghanistan in 1996, monsoon in Delhi and Mumbai, coal workers in Dhanbad, widows of Varanasi, street photography, festivities and folk musicians form the book.
“I emailed each photographer, told them how I was going to donate the prints to the museum, and they all agreed. My only condition to the museum was that none of these photos can be used for commercial purpose,” says Puri. Sixty prints out of his vast collection are on display at Exhibit 320 gallery in Lado Sarai, Delhi, till Sunday.