Maestros: Masters of Indian Classical Music by Raghu Rai

Portraits in Awe

Raghu Rai

The images of  Raghu can best be described as arresting, haunting, and captured on film. It is interesting and romantic to imagine the importance of using film for a subject matter like the Maestros of Indian Classical Music,  as opposed to MTV, digital media and digital manipulation. The manipulations here, are done in the darkroom by masterful cropping and dodging in black and white printing. The intentional grainy prints are a tell-tale sign of this. The compositions are well considered, exploring balance and contrast between the subject matter, and their surrounding. These portraits, quoted in the exhibition leaflet, are “not only India’s great classical musicians but also icons of music in the world”.

The weight of representing a fragment of world culture are perhaps best done in black and white photography, just as how Singaporean photographer Ken Cheong documented the dying trade of Chinese Opera in Singapore, in a photography exhibition in the same Jendela Visual Arts Space several years back.  But these photographs are not mere documentation of musicians, they seem to hold hopes, aspirations and much more.  The soul of music, perhaps?

The mood of each individual musician is caught and immortalized, but at the same time humanized in facial expression.

Without hearing and appreciating the music which spun these expressions, we are perhaps mere outsiders looking at a National Geographic endorsed photographer’s works. But after seeing these pictures, I am spurred to seek out the music.

5 of 10 stars.

Till April 8,

Jendela (Visual Arts Space)

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