The celebrated French photographer Marc Riboud has been travelling around the globe and chronicling life in all its variety—from wars to children playing—from the 1950s on. A selection of 50 of his photographs, brought to India by Tasveer for the show Marc Riboud: Photographer , has the feel of a retrospective. While most of the photographs have been taken in India, China and other parts of Asia, there are some widely recognized iconic shots taken in Europe and the US.
The photographs taken in India—all of them, with one exception, were shot in 1956—speak of a considered engagement with the newly independent republic. One of the hallmarks of good art is to evoke the contradictory—including differing aspects of physical reality—at the same time, and Riboud’s frames manage to do just that. Taken across the length and breadth of the country, the images when viewed today evoke the “timeless India” that is still moored to the pre-industrial way of life but it is a tribute to Riboud’s eye that they don’t feel exotic and “Oriental”. They have the matter-of-fact, unfussy approach to them that resonates with the India of today, half a century later.
(Left) Jaipur, India 1956; and The Painter of the Eiffel Tower. Marc Riboud
That could be for obvious reasons—many things haven’t changed or if they have, they haven’t changed radically. Ravi Shankar, somewhat older now, is still playing the sitar. And while fewer men can be seen in dhotis, women still wear sarees, though they are more colourful now and made from synthetic fabrics. Durga visarjan after the Durga Puja still happens against the backdrop of anchored ships and steamers, and traditional wooden boats still ply the rivers and seas. It is still our reality, though slightly removed.
The same can be said for Riboud’s images taken in China, Iran, Turkey or the US—some in the 1950s and 1960s, some much later. The people and landscape of an industrializing China or of an anti-war protestor in the US or of nuns in Paris and veiled women in Tehran evoke for the viewer what is different but also what is alike—underscoring the universal which transcends the specific and the particular.
This small sampling of Riboud’s oeuvre speaks volumes about him as a chronicler of humanity par excellence.
Organized by Tasveer, Marc Riboud: Photographer will show from 1-10 April at Gallery Art Motif, F-213 C, Lado Sarai, New Delhi