Distant India in a Distant Time

Muslim refugees on a train from Delhi to Lahore, 1947 — Click to enlarge

Henri Cartier-Bresson is perhaps the most well-known photographer in India, or rather—an important distinction—the photographer whose work is most well-known. He first visited India in the fall of 1947. One of only two Western photographers granted access to Gandhi, Cartier-Bresson shot a series of portraits of the ailing leader the week before he was killed by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu chauvinist, in January 1948. Cartier-Bresson then covered Gandhi’s funeral and the national mourning that followed.

First published in Life magazine, these photos brought Cartier-Bresson worldwide recognition. They were also widely reproduced in India, and are today so familiar there that his authorship is usually forgotten. The same is true of many quieter, more tableaux-like photos he took on subsequent visits in 1950, 1966, and 1980. In “Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame,” the Rubin Museum brings together selections from each of these trips.

Whether the Rubin Museum is an easy trip – or not likely – this article is worth the read. History comes alive. The photographer’s eye is well understood. We learn, we learn more.

One thought on “Distant India in a Distant Time

  1. Jimmy Click says:

    “Photographs that show a bygone India” (BBC) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-42194191 “Photo studios are on the verge of extinction in the digital era. But as they struggle to keep theirs shutters open, one research project is looking at ways to preserve their legacy by digitising archival images. The project, funded by the British Library, visited around 100 photo studios across the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and preserved, or rather digitised, 10,000 prints. Many of the photos were taken between 1880-1980, and they ranged from portraits of families and famous stars to weddings and funerals.”

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