Just By the Way

March 19, 2010


Just By the Way is as casual a title as are the photographs of the latest Rahgu Rai show concluded at the Jehangir Nicholson Art gallery.

Sometimes famous artists pull out from their old stock of negatives what they missed the first time around and believe that their stature in the firmament of photography will see them through regardless. Most often the markets are so greedy that that premise is valid, the work slips by, sometimes though the work is so flawed that it becomes imperative to state that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Raghu Rai is shooting himself in the foot by showing work that seriously begins to damage his credibility as a very fine artist. Rocks Clouds and Nudes will come back to haunt him.

Most photographers at some stage dabble with nudes, the gender, the forbidden, the erotic the edgy sexiness and the taboo of the naked human body all become of interest to explore aspects of themselves hitherto unchallenged. How you rise to the occasion and transcend the banal is what imbues the subject with its appeal. Raghu Rai fails miserably. His images look voyeristic and unaesthetic that all hark back to some amateur photographs in disreputable mens magazines 30 years ago.

Most of his nudes were shot around 1984, Orwellian. Nudes II and III in particular have a woman with jeans un zipped but folded inwards so that you have full view of pubes in a most self conscious, ‘forced’ way. Her blouse is twisted off revealing, without even the choli ke peeche innuendo, her breasts. The photographer’s direction is written all over it. Nudies, uggh.. is the title of other works where a nudie is sitting on a pot with muslin draped over it uncermoniously, the photo comes leaping out of Photgraphic Society of India circa 1965. Some images are called naively, Infinity.

Besides the prepubescent content and form, the images are so poorly finished and presented. These are digital inket prints that have pen and ink hand drawn borders with very exercrable draftsmanship. Black Patches –  lest you miss the nipples behind the see through muslin are ‘burnt’ in to singe your testoserone. Domes of fame – ah the man is referring to the Taj in the background while Aurangzeb in the foreground has made a cup of tea for the nudie. Wah Taj! The list is endless one worse than the other.

The only saving grace comes from a very unlikely source, and it has no clouds, no rocks and no nudes mercifully. Called Trees and Bamboo, you can buy this at info@foss-gandi.com