When you hear Rai within the photography circle, you might associate it with Raghu Rai himself. Renowned as he is, I'm sure he would want to bring light to his prodigy daughter Avani Rai (@avani.rai). Growing up, Avani Rai was immersed in the life of photography, her father, Raghu Rai one of the most revered photographers in Indian history who had shot photographs for sacred figures such as Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama would bring back conversations and imagery that would fill every inch of the household. Avani as a child would stare at the dry prints fresh from the dark room, hung on the washing line like freshly strung garments, then playing amongst the imagery, trying not to step on its formation, seeped with narrative.
It wasn't something she expected to get into, but having been given a red and white camera as a little girl, it became a toy that would be played with for years to come. The infectious click of capturing became second nature. It became nostalgic moments in time that would bring her peace when she needed it the most. Moving away to college was a moment for reflection and imagery, helped fill the void of being away from home.
Avani Rai an emerging photographer, filmmaker and artist, born in India and living in Mumbai, pushes boundaries. She captures the unseen and the unheard world. Her photography brings justice to those who have no voice and beauty to life that would otherwise be concealed. Her recent projects in Kashmir documents the ongoing political conflict and the effects has on the Kashmiri people. Her series Exhibit A underpins generational trauma, especially to the women and children of Kashmir who live in a daily haze of conflict.
Avani has been collecting fragments of people's homes whether it be an image, object or a account and it's in these memories and possessions a story is told. One of violence, exclusion and loss. A revisit of memory that they cannot escape. Avani believes effort is required in the world and a level of care to reach out, but as this isn't going to happen any time soon, Avani will tell their stories through her viewfinder, capturing the moment and allowing the moment to speak out. She purposefully uses black and white imagery in this series to focus on the subject, on their eyes and their emotions. Using colour only distracts from the importance of the subject.
When Avani isn't in Kashmir documenting, she's making films. Her latest focuses on her relationship with her father in Raghu Rai - An unframed portrait filmed by Avani Rai herself and co-produced by ARTE FRANCE, IDFA BERTHA FUND . It showcases her father's photographic journey and a history through India but also allowed her to understand her father and his work ethic.
This was portrayed further when they combined heads in Varanasi, the holy city of Northern India in a photo assignment. Here they learned together as they took the bending streets of Varanasi in the pursuit of the perfect shot. With snake charmers, acrobats and boatmen there was never a dull moment. Every corner was full of life.
There is generational import to be taken here, Avani realises that she will always listen to her father's advice but she has her own style and her own visions and that's crucial. To take on board her father's knowledge but to also understand oneself and cultivate experiences to develop one's own judgement.
In photography we can share this, a divine space between the eye and reality, separated by the lens. A space that brings greater realism to the real. Be its subject, an image that portrays the countenance of our most treasured figures or suffering in real time. The power of the lens and the excellence of the eye that guides it. It is this space that Avani, her father, and all alike share.