Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh at The Met Breuer

Employees Morvi Palace

A retrospective by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art of the pioneering Indian photographer aims to situate his work at the intersection of Western modernism and traditional South Asian modes of picturing the world

The late Raghubir Singh once said that his style of modernist photography stood “on the Ganges side of modernism, rather than the Seine or East River side of it”.

Born into an aristocratic family in Rajasthan, Singh lived in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York, but the subject of his prolific career, until his death in 1999 at the age of 56, was his native India

The Met Breuer in New York has chosen Singh for a retrospective, featuring 85 original works by the artist, alongside other works by his contemporaries – friends, collaborators and fellow travellers. The exhibition also displays Indian court paintings that inspired Singh, such as those from the Mughal period (1526-1857).

Singh is recognised as a pioneer in colour street photography, in his ability to capture the dense, diverse scenes of Indian society in complex frieze-like compositions, using a handheld camera and colour slide film. The diversity of his influences ranged from Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray to French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and American street photographers such as William Gedney and Lee Friedlander.

Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs is at The Met Breuer in New York until 2 January 2018 – tickets are available here