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India is so stimulating: French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain on his book with Raghu Rai

A treat to those who love photography, 'To France in India', co-authored by French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain and veteran photographer Raghu Rai was released last week. The book captures both countries through evocative stills by His Excellency Emmanuel Lenain and award winning photographer Raghu Rai. In an exclusive interview, HE Emmanuel Lenain, talks about the book, the idea behind it and what he is planning to work on next.

1. What was the idea behind this book?
To juxtapose our deep appreciation of each other’s countries in a book, and share our love of photography, India, and France.

2. Why did you choose the pictures to be in black and white? I always shoot in black-and-white. It’s a matter of taste. Some people are fond of forms: they like Bach and drawing. Others seek colours: they prefer Tchaikovsky and painting. Of course, black-and-white was not an easy choice to represent a country awash with fantastic colours that India is. It creates an obligation to divine the often pure forms that are hidden behind the noisy effervescence of the streets, the individualities that lend themselves to mind-bogglingly specialized trades. Fortunately, seconding me in this austere choice – which in many ways was a form of renunciation – is photography maestro, Raghu Rai.

3. Is there any particular side of India and France that you want to showcase through these photographs?
For India: its diversity. The fact that this country-continent has for centuries been a confluence between East and West, and the birthplace of some of the world’s most practised religions. And also the fact that it seems to me that Indians have made the radical, generous, and fundamentally quite modern choice of accepting all influences. They function by addition, not subtraction.

4. How long did it take to bring this book together? Was it planned beforehand and then the pictures were taken or did these pics already form a part of your photography collection?
It took us several months of happy collective work, sorting, selecting, and compiling our photos time and again. The pictures were already in our collections and would have remained there without this project. It is a great training to look afresh at your pictures through the eye of another photographer. New details are discovered. Some photos that did not make the cut initially, are looked at again.

5. Why this collaboration with Raghu Rai?
It was Raghu’s idea. He had seen some of my photos. Imagine how easy it was to convince me to work with such a master of photography! He is very well known in France for being the first Indian photographer to join the legendary Magnum Photos agency founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

6. What is that one picture in both the India and France sections that you like the most?
My favourite in the India section is the photo of two girls playfully whirling in Delhi’s Jama Masjid. I chose this for the book cover. It took place unexpectedly, with total spontaneity. I never stage a situation and believe in the ability of photography to fix the decisive moment. In the Paris section, I find the pictures that Raghu shot inside the Louvre museum particularly arresting. The distinction between human beings and statues becomes completely blurred. That’s full of irony, but at the same time, it shows the compassionate and, ultimately, very humane eye of Raghu.

7. Any more books on the cards?
Why not? India is so stimulating!


Source : The Times of India

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