Magnum Photos is delighted to once more be collaborating with Tasveer on an exhibition of photographs of India. So often India’s colour and light are cited as inspiration to the photographer, but the work included here goes deeper than this surface beauty. Known for a long-term engagement with their subject matter these eight photographers, including acclaimed Indian photographer and Magnum contributor Raghu Rai, have all lived and worked in India for extended periods of time documenting its diverse and complex society.
Although not part of this selection it must be noted that Magnum’s engagement with India began in its early years, with founder member Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous photographs of the last days and funeral of Gandhi in 1948. Two years later the Swiss photographer Werner Bischof traveled to India and photographed a young temple dancer for one of Magnum’s earliest group projects, Generation X. Her portrait is included here amongst his selection of exquisitely composed images.
In 1959 Marilyn Silverstone was sent on a three-month assignment to India, but ended up moving to New Delhi and was based there until 1973. This exhibition features a selection of her portraits of Indian society. Included is one of the Dalai Lama, significant to Silverstone’s personal story, in that she was later to become a Buddhist monk. The Iranian photographer Abbas has returned many times to India as part of his exploration of global religions. His selection includes images of pilgrimage and meditation.
Bruno Barbey’s colour and Scianna’s bold black and white photographs capture the ebb and flow of Indian street life in the 1980s. A master of colour and light Steve McCurry’s photography is strongly associated with this part of the world. Notable not just for their vibrant palate, his portraits employ the direct gaze of the subject to create an immediate engagement with the viewer. One of Magnum’s youngest members, Olivia Arthur, joined Magnum in 2008. Now an associate, she is represented here by a series of portraits of the Ramani sect, a group of untouchables whose unique tattoos are a form of protest against the Indian cast system.
This selection offers an introduction to Magnum’s rich archive and ongoing engagement with India through the eyes of eight Magnum photographers, the careers of whom span the agency’s past, present and promise for the future.