Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Cameraperson: Abhay Sharma
A photograph does many things at the same time. It provides evidence and dispenses justice, it captures history and sometimes says a lot more than what’s seen.
Nobody knows this better than Praveen Jain, perhaps India’s most well-known photojournalist. He has been a photographer for over three decades now.
From riots to earthquakes in India, from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi, from the lathicharge on Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the BJP’s ascent to power, he has captured it all.
Praveen even risked his life to capture the horrific Hashimpura massacre where 42 men were killed.
Pictures he took of the incident were key evidence in the recent judgment which came 31 years after the killings.
Praveen specialises in political mood photography. In almost every picture, we see the real person behind the garb of the politician.
Some of his iconic pictures, like former Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s sleeping photo, took on national significance – it gave him the name 'the sleeping PM'.
“I read faces, the key is not to divert your attention. Commit to the moment. If I know two people present at an event dislike each other, I will read their facial expressions and click a picture which best describes the vibe between the two.”Praveen Jain, Photojournalist
In fact, some leaders were so aware of Praveen’s presence that they had strict diktats. Former President KR Narayanan always had one message for Praveen Jain – “Don’t take ulta-seedha pictures of me”.
Once KR Narayanan cautioned Atal Bihar Vajpayee about Praveen Jain, saying, “Beware of him. He is Praveen Jain, very dangerous photographer.”
Most of Praveen’s photographs were clicked because of his personal rapport with the politicians or if Praveen saw potential in a rising politician.
He shot pictures of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav when he was living in his brother's servants’ quarters. These pictures became a rage when Lalu became chief minister of Bihar.
Praveen’s latest exhibition ‘200 and 1’ chronicles his journey of three decades as a political photographer. He comes from the film reel era where a photo couldn’t be viewed instantly – perhaps that’s what made him a more observant and better cameraperson.