The eye of India, only see in color.
– Raghubir Singh
Raghubir Singh (1942–1999) was a pioneer of color street photography who worked and published prolifically from the late 1960s until his death in 1999 at age 56. Born into an aristocratic family in Rajasthan, he lived in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York—but his eye was perpetually drawn back to his native India. During his career he worked with National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker and Time. In the early 1970s, he was one of the first photographers to reinvent the use of color at a time when color photography was still a marginal art form. Using a handheld camera and color slide film, he recorded India’s dense milieu in complex frieze-like compositions teeming with incident, fractured by reflections, and pulsating with opulent color. Singh embraced color as part of a continuous Indian aesthetic tradition that reaches back to the miniature paintings of the Mughal period. He was also deeply influenced by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (whom he met in Jaipur in 1966), Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and American street photographers such as William Gedney and Lee Friedlander. As he traveled along his own artistic path, Singh forged a distinctively Indian style of modernist photography that stands, as he put it, “on the Ganges side of modernism.”