Raghu Rai was born in the village of Jhang, Punjab, British India (now in Pakistan). He was one of four children. He was a protégé of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who appointed Rai, then a young photojournalist, to Magnum Photos in 1977. Cartier-Bresson co-founded Magnum Photos.
Rai became a photographer in 1965, and a year later joined the staff of The Statesman, a New Delhi publication. In 1976, he left the paper and became a freelance photographer. From 1982 until 1992, Rai was the director of photography for India Today. He has served on the jury for World Press Photo from 1990 to 1997. He is known for his books, Raghu Rai’s India: Reflections in Colour and Reflections in Black and White.
“India is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Entities, people and sects have lived together and sometimes fought together.”
He has served three times on the jury of the World Press Photo and twice on the jury of UNESCO’s International Photo Contest. He was awarded the ‘Padmashree’ in 1972, one of India’s important civilian awards ever given to a photographer for the body of works he produced on Bangladesh refugees, the war and the surrender. In 1992 he was awarded “Photographer of the Year” in the United States for the story “Human Management of Wildlife in India” published in National Geographic. In 2009 he was conferred Officier des Arts et des Lettres by French Govt.
His photo essays have appeared in many of the world’s leading magazines and newspapers – including Time, Life, GEO, Le Figaro, Le Monde, Die Welt, The New York Times, Sunday The Times-London, Newsweek, Vogue, GQ, D magazine, Marie Claire, The Independent and the New Yorker. He has been an adjudicator for World Press Photo Contest, Amsterdam and UNESCO’s International Photo Contest for many times.
Raghu Rai lives in New Delhi with his family and continues to be an associate of Magnum Photos.