Raghubir SINGH, Pavement mirror shop, Howrah, West Bengal Enlarge 1 /1

Raghubir SINGH

India 1942 – New York 1999

Pavement mirror shop, Howrah, West Bengal 1991 Place made: West Bengal, India
Materials & Technique: photographs, Type C colour photograph

Dimensions: image 39.6 h x 59.9 w cm sheet 50.7 h x 61.8 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1999
Accession No: NGA 99.160
Image rights: © Succession Raghubir Singh

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Raghubir Singh became interested in photography while still at school and educated himself in photojournalism by poring over The family of man – a seminal exhibition/publication by Edward Steichen – and LIFE magazines at the New Delhi office of Time-Life. He took the work and philosophy of Henri Cartier-Bresson as a model, and greatly admired major past figures of documentary photography in black and white – particularly Walker Evans and Brassaï. Singh developed a reputation for his skill in colour reportage and is best known for his 14 books on India, for which he travelled extensively across the country.

Singh was a friend and admirer of the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, who in turn paid tribute to Singh's vision as one in which 'everything from the most mundane to the most splendiferous, reveals a mixture of wonder, admiration and probing curiosity'. This image reflects Singh's gift for combining the 'decisive moment' tradition of documentary with the formal complexity of composition in colour. Singh's own blurred self-portrait can be seen reflected in a mirror.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Singh developed a reputation for his skill in colour reportage. He worked freelance in India, later internationally, and published books on regional aspects of India. He believed that serious art photographers had to pursue their own vision and produce work free of editorial bias and the restrictions of magazine layouts. The formally complex tangle of shapes in Pavement mirror shop reflects Singh’s love of Colour Field painting and Pop art. The scene includes Singh’s reflection, caught in a number of the mirrors.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra