From a 1967 image of sari-clad women caught in a rainstorm to a 1993 picture taken in a small-town museum in Southern India, this glorious retrospective surveys the 30-year career of Raghubir Singh (1942–1999), one of the giants of color photography. Tracing Singh’s influences and development, the exhibit brings together his vibrant photographs, along with works by protégés, anonymous studio portraitists and even Mughal miniature painters.
Although greatly influenced by the black-and-white photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Singh turned to color in the 1960s, believing it was the only way to capture his country.
The show opens with Singh’s cinematic visions of political rallies and religious festivals, as well as quieter images such as one wonderful picture of five men eating bright pink ices. During the 1980s, Singh’s palette became richer, and he began to introduce multiple focal points, as in his disorienting Pavement Mirror Shop, Howrah, West Bengal (1991), which depicts passersby reflected and refracted in the store’s wares. His photos from the mid-1990s, like one of a roadside statue of Mahatma Gandhi, feature lush color, fractured space and a multiplicity of narratives, all within a single image.
Great retrospectives bring coherence to artists’ often-zigzagging progress. This survey, one of the best shows of the year, does exactly that for Singh.