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India’s first Magnum photographer, Raghu Rai welcomes us to his workspace and sanctuary in New Delhi where he makes music out of images

Raghu Rai’s photographs have shaped India’s collective imagination, visual lexicon and identity. We visit his workspace, overlooking the Mehrauli Archeological Park in South Delhi, full of photobooks and prints of subjects that range from instantly recognisable personalities like Indira Gandhi, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Mother Teresa to the “common man” and scenes from everyday life. The photographs not only tell the story of the artist’s five-and-a-half decade long career, but also that of modern India, capturing the many moods of its people to reveal their “emotions, social connections and the politics of life”.

The photographer, now 81 years old, presides over the space, overseeing a team of editors and perfecting the textures and rhythms of his photographs. “Over the years, you develop a kind of discipline,” he tells us. “And then no matter who comes in front of your camera, you can capture the aura, the inner spirit of the person.”

In this BMW Artist Film, the photographer tells us how he lives in the “here and now to be able to capture a moment” forever.

Raghu Rai was born in Jhang, Punjab in 1942. His photographs will be on view at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and PHOTOINK as part of India Art Fair 2024 parallel exhibitions.