The Indian Photographer Who Changed How the World Saw His Homeland

Ganapati Immersio Raghubir Singh.jpg
(Ganapati Immersion, Chowpatty, Bombay, Maharashtra, 1989. Raghubir Singh:© 2017)

Most pictures from third world countries before the 1970s were taken in Black and White. It was too expensive and even if someone gave you a roll of color film, oftentimes the country didn't have the infrastructure to develop it. 

Here's an amazing excerpt from an NPR article by Maanvi Singh about Raghubir Singh an Indian photographer who took color images of what India really looked like, not just black and white shots of the Taj Mahal. Mr. Singh got to the heart of Indian culture and people, showing the world how they lived:

In the early 1970s, when many professional photographers were shooting in black and white, Raghubir Singh pioneered the use of color film to capture scenes from his homeland India. Back then, color photography wasn't always taken seriously. But Singh insisted that it was impossible to capture India's essence in black and white.
"The fundamental condition of the West is one of guilt, linked to death -- from which black is inseparable." he wrote in his 1998 book River of Color. "The fundamental condition of India, however, is the cycle of rebirth, in which color is not just an essential element but also a deep inner source."
A wedding party dressed in shades of red, a roadside vendor selling oranges out of fuchsia baskets, terra cotta landscapes and green monsoon skies: Singh's work captures the vibrancy of everyday life in India.
Man diving  Raghubir Singh:© 2017.jpg
(Man diving, Ganges floods, Benares, Uttar Pradesh, 1985. Raghubir Singh:© 2017)
Singh, who came from a wealthy family in Rajasthan, India, never studied photography formally. But soon after his older brother gifted 14-year-old Singh his first camera, he became enamored with the work of French street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Singh's parents owned a copy of Cartier-Bresson's book Beautiful Jaipur -- which became a sort of textbook for him.
After dropping out of college, he began working as a photojournalist for American publications, including National Geographic and The New York Times. And there was a big perk: free access to color film (which wasn't available in India until 1991).
Fruit Seller and a boy with a child Raghubir Singh.jpg
(Fruit Seller and a boy with a child at Zaina Kadal Bridge, Jhelum River, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1979. Raghubir Singh:© 2017 )

His work exposed Westerners to the real India, says Shivji Joshi, a photographer and retired professor of philosophy at the University of Jodhpur. "Photos taken by Raghubir Singh showed to foreigners -- or rather everyone -- that India is more than a land of snake-charmers," Joshi says. Although Singh lived in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York, most of his work featured his native India.
Joshi -- who like Singh is from Rajasthan -- says Singh's work captures a "love and sense of respect for his homeland."


Check out the full story with more images at NPR