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The Right Click

The wait for the right moment,to capture the right mood,can be unnerving even for an ace photojournalist like Raghu Rai.

Written by Smita Nair |
October 31, 2010 11:35:34 pm

The wait for the right moment,to capture the right mood,can be unnerving even for an ace photojournalist like Raghu Rai. When the subject is successful women at the forefront and the canvas ranges from corporate offices to film sets,the anxiousness of the wait can be somewhat magnified. Rai,a nominated member of Magnum Photos since 1977,explains the anxiousness of the process.

Rai and five other Magnum photographers,Martine Franck,Alex Webb,Patrick Zachmann,Alessandra Sanguinetti and Olivia Arthur have captured the right mood for ‘Women Changing India’,a commissioned exhibition by BNP Paribas India to mark its 150th year in the country.

The exhibition is now on at NCPA. On the sidelines of the 90-frame exhibition,in a photodocumentary by Emanuel Blanchard,Rai and others explain the choice of their subjects,some aspirational,some peaceful,some self-assured,some with a view,but all having something in common,aggressive determination.

The assignment saw them travel separately to corporate spaces of women achievers,homes of gas station attendants to activists like Mahasweta Devi and Aruna Roy. They walked the line with a woman sarpanch in Tamil Nadu,participated in academic silence inside an Infosys training campus,caught the action on the sets of directors like Farah Khan and Kiran Rao and trekked with tribal women who collect garbage in Kutch.

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Rai’s camera captured Aruna Roy,Mahasweta Devi,Sewa’s Ela Bhatt,corporate leaders like Swati Piramal and Anu Agha and painter Anjoli Ela Menon,to name a few. Zachmann’s camera chased two sarpanchs in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. His photographs indicate the authority with which they,assisted by men,take policy decisions even as Zachmann is heard in the documentary “so many men working under them,usually we are used to the contrary”. Zachmann’s frames have captured Bina,a sarpanch in a Kerala village,who often uses psychology and a woman’s instinct to find solutions,in various moods. Photographer Olivia Arthur picks up personal spaces,at work and home,of career women like a human rights lawyer in the Supreme Court and subjects from an artist and working mother to a research student in Bangalore,who Arthur says,had to walk to another department building as hers did not have a loo for women. Arthur also captured women on campus,in their academic space living “an extended period away from home” shaping their careers.

New York-based Alessandra Sanguinetti chose the colorful and hectic Bollywood to show women like a 25-year-old lighting designer and a prop expert at work,besides the famed Farah Khan and Kiran Rao directing in an otherwise male-dominant work space.

Alex Webb chose women in professions like security guards and drivers and spent days shooting them in their challenging work space.

In Martine Franck’s works,one can see changes that micro-finance and women’s groups working for community development have brought. Speaking of the Kutch village where she shot tribal women working in a community movement,collecting garbage and also working towards safeguarding tribal culture through their art,Franck says their tattooed bodies “was like they were wearing jewellery”,they have a way of making beauty around them. The exhibition,the frames and the photodocumentary,will travel to other metros in India before it leaves for Paris,London,Brussels and Milan.

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