Author: isabellemoran

I am a Communication and Media Studies student majoring in digital media and communications at the University of Wollongong. I have a passion for working with cameras and am determined to work within an industry where l can pursue my creative interests.

Raghu Rai

When I think of India I automatically think of their cultural diversity. I think of their beautiful attire and huge weddings. I think of their spicy food. I think of their dedication to their religion, assuming they are religious… However, I most certainly don’t think of art when India is mentioned. So when I came across the photographer Raghu Rai I was quite surprised at how intrigued I was about his photographs. From my assumption, Rai’s photographs give clear insight into the Indian culture and their social norms.

For my entire life I have lived in the Sutherland Shire, that has its own culture within itself, which is almost the opposite of the Indian culture in Rai’s eyes. Due to the fact that I have really only been exposed to the same traditions and way of life, I have an uneducated perception of India and therefore further study is mandatory.

PAR72902.jpgPhoto credit: Raghu Rai ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During prayer.’ <> 

Throughout my research I came across Rai’s image ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During Prayer’ so I decided to do some background study into the Hindu religion to give me greater insight into their traditions. I found that over 80% of the population of India identify themselves as part of the Hindu religion. According to Cultural India, Hindu religion is based on the idea that human and animal spirits come back to earth to live countless times in various forms (Cultural India, 2017). As mentioned by Cultural India, Hinduism believes a person is born into a privileged life because of the good they have done in a past life, where as people born into poverty have done wrong in previous lives (Cultural India, 2017). Rajhan claims that prayer in the Hinduism religion is extremely important to those who follow, some of the reasons they pray is to depend on god during distress, to ask god for enlightenment and they pray for they’re surrendering themselves to god completely (Rajhans, 2017).

According to BBC, Hindu people pray or worship whenever the individual wishes, majority of Hindu homes have a shrine where offerings are made and prayers are said which is generally on a daily basis (BBC, 2005). This information is no real surprise, but it is beneficial and interesting to gain some deeper insight into the Indian religion. Through having this understanding of Indian traditions I believe it will not only heavily influence my interpretation of the photographers work, but also essentially my own art making practice when I begin to re create a series based on my response.

PAR309424.jpgPhoto credit: Raghu Rai ‘Hand building highway – Hydrabad, 2004’ <;

The photo above is Rai’s ‘Hand Building Highway’, looking back on this photo a few weeks later after doing further research I have responded to it in a whole new way. Little did I know is that Indians balance heavy and at times awkward objects on their head as it is the most appropriate form of transportation for them. As mentioned by Dweck (2010), the ancient art of this balancing act is common practice anywhere in developing countries and is generally performed by women. According to Dweck (2010), people can carry loads of up to 20 percent of their own body weight without using any extra energy beyond what they’d use by walking around unencumbered.

As stated by Whittle (2016), the fact that women routinely carried heavy loads on their heads in pre-industrial societies reminds me that much of the routine work, like collecting water, gathering fuel and laundering linens was physically demanding on their bodies. Not to mention that agriculture in the pre-industrial economy required a lot of fetching and carrying on foot generally between house and fields and farm and market and majority of this was done by women.

For my digital artefact I still aim to create a photographic series based on my relation and interpretation of Rai’s long line of work. I will take images that are based off similar experiences to the Indian culture but in a way that relates to my own traditions. For example, when I see ‘Hand Building Highway’ I automatically think to how we transport our essentials, either in a car or truck so perhaps I could photograph that in response to Rai’s image.

Reference List:

BBC, 2005, Hinduism: Worship, BBC, viewed 14th September 2017, <;

Cultural India, 2017, Hinduism Religion India, Cultural India, viewed 14th September 2017, <;

Dweck, J 2010, The Art of Carrying Things on your Head, Slate, viewed 14th September 2017, <;

Whittle, J 2016, Why do women carry things on their heads?, WordPress, viewed 14th September 2017, <;



Raghu Rai – The Indian Photographer

Raghu Rai is an Indian photographer and photojournalist who takes photographs that give an insight into Indian culture.

I gained access to Rai’s portfolio and biography through his website on the internet, where he has uploaded his most successful images.

PAR309418.jpgRaghu Rai – The day before ….. 6 December 1993, Ayodhya. Photo Credit:

This was the first image I saw on Rai’s portfolio, it initially captured my attention due to it’s candid nature. I haven’t been to India and have little knowledge on their lifestyle, but I assume the shot is of a man dressed in his daily attire, accepting food off another man to hand to the monkey to his left. There is a smile on the mans face which I assume means he is pleased to feed the animal that looks very eager and just a little too close. However this doesn’t seem to affect him, essentially emphasising that stray monkeys approaching you on the street is a common thing in their society. Although the photo is quite dark, it does bring me a sense of joy being an animal lover myself, therefore I can relate to this mans happiness to feed the monkey. It reminds me of going to the zoo and feeding the animals there, these are delightful experiences and this image reminds me of those positive feelings.

PAR156288.jpgRaghu Rai – INDIA. Kolkata. 1987. A cow and deities on the banks of the Hooghly River. Photo credit:

This image has several focal points, my eye was naturally directed to the woman, that then lead for me to seek what she was looking at which seemed to be a religious Hindu statue, then to the cow and then the boat… It is really difficult for me to unpack this image and discover the story behind it without researching it first. My understanding is that the woman used the cow as transportation to come to this statue to pray/worship, but I’m still confused on most things having little knowledge on the culture and religion, which is making me even more intrigued to further research.

Rai has a central style and technique to his work, it appears that they are taken with a film camera due to their grainy background effect and although his images can be quite dark (especially being black and white) they still evoke pleasant emotions.

PAR309411.jpgRaghu Rai – A ricksawman taking a nap in Jama Masjid Market Delhi 2005. Photo credit:

This photograph is one of Rai’s more later works, I really appreciated his use of a long shutter speed. By having movement in the background it gave me the impression of time passing by as the man has a nap on the side of the road. I have heard before that many men sleep everywhere and anywhere in India, it is just apart of the culture which is what Rai attempts to convey through his work. Rai seems to have stemmed away from his geometric black and white style and has created a saturated bright and capturing image with carefully selected colours. The red, green and neutral colours all blend well together and the central figure in the frame is significantly sharp despite the extended shutter which is impressive.  I’d like to replicate Rai’s shutter technique and use that to my advantage when creating my works.

Raghu Rai has a major body of work that explores religion, cultural concepts and adopts numerous techniques in which i’d like to further study. Rai’s images seem to be his interpretation of his culture and the Indian people’s everyday lives, so in a way his photographs can be viewed as an autoethnography within itself.

Photography in Asia

According to Ellis, autoethnography is an approach to writing and research that seeks to describe personal experience in order to better understand a certain culture (2011). As mentioned by Ellis, autoethnography provides us with the freedom of creating meaningful, accessible and evocate research based on personal experience (2011). This research will sensitize readers to issues such as politics and experiences that are unspoken of, which allows us to empathise with people who vary to us on a more understanding level.

An ethnographer utilises parts of autobiography as well as ethnography to research and write. When writing an autobiography, an author selects what to write about in terms of their previous experiences. As stated by Ellis, when researchers engage in ethnography, they investigate a cultures everyday values and beliefs, as well as relational practices, with the intent of assisting insiders and outsiders better understand that culture (2011). When researchers conduct autoethnography they selectively write about epiphanies that branch from either being part of a culture or engaging in a cultural experience.

Having a passion for photography I intend to research the art form in Asia as well as various Asian photographic artists such as Rinko Kawauchi. Through researching the background of this medium and how the Asian culture responds to it, will not only influence my perception but also my own art practice. I aim to produce a photographic series that responds to my experience with the Asian culture and the way they engage with photography. I also aim to produce a piece in written form explaining my experience, observations and opinions, which will be supported by scholarly evidence.

As stated by Wakeling, Rinko Kawauchi is best known for her talent in finding purity and tranquillity in everyday life (2012). The artist challenges traditional art conventions and compositions through her careful selection of subjects and themes.

Examples of Kawauchi’s work:

0428976c3ef90e2b77cefc502b872f2d.jpgPhoto Credit:–close-up-photography-life-photography.jpg
e4ea6145024bf1f883bad3cbcb16266f.jpgPhoto Credit:

Kawauchi’s work subtly responds to the Japanese culture, which is something I’m unfamiliar with as I generally study US and Australian photographers. Therefore researching artists such as the one stated above is bound to broaden my understandings of photography conceptually and practically, encouraging new experiences and epiphanies in which I can stem off and document.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1, viewed 10th August 2017, <>

Wakeling, E 2012, In the Light of Rinko Kawauchi, Japantimes, viewed 10th August 2017, <>


A very Different Film Experience…


Being a 21-year-old Australian I generally tend to watch films that are contemporary Hollywood blockbuster romantic comedies, so watching the film Godzilla was definitely a diverse experience.

During the beginning, the first thing I realised was that the film was in a square format, which I am not familiar with only watching modern day movies. This along with the black and white made me question how long I’d be able to dedicate my attention to the film. Being someone who is attracted to bright colours I assumed I would lose focus fast but fortunately this wasn’t the case. Come to think of it, I haven’t watched a black and white film before other than the Wizard of Oz but that was only black and white for a short period in the beginning, hence why Godzilla was far out of my regular film choice. Fortunately, the dramatic story line kept me entertained for much longer than expected, the effects were extremely impressive for such an old film and it was pleasant watching something from a different era, although I wouldn’t do this regularly.

Comparatively, I did think there were a few issues with the film in terms of performance and editing. The scratches in the film became quite distracting and there were times there was a need for sound but it cut out unexpectedly which was a let down. Not only this, the acting was very dramatic and highly staged in comparison to the mainstream Hollywood films I watch which are generally natural and realistic and this really emphasised how ‘corny’ Godzilla was at times. Especially referring to the monster itself, who looked fictitious and artificial, specifically in the scenes where it emerged from the water and ‘breathed fire’.

The subtitles in Godzilla created a new film experience for me, being someone who hasn’t watch a film with subtitles before. I’ve never needed to as I’ve always watch movies in English and had no interest in anything else. I didn’t realise until about 5 minutes into Godzilla that all I was doing was reading the subtitles and not actually watching the film itself. They became quite distracting because I knew I wouldn’t understand what was going on if I didn’t read them, so I continued to lose focus until about midway through. From here it became easier and easier as time went on to channel my focus into the entire film experience including the subtitles, actors, scenes etc. and it surprisingly became quite enjoyable.

Out of my own curiosity to decided to research how effects were executed before we had the luxury of all these fancy computer programs. According to Harness, the approach they took to editing especially in regards to films with animation or monsterous characters like Godzilla, was very time consuming and required a lot of patience (2010). Everything had to be done in a manual manner, and discovering the effort that went into the creation of the movie really made me appreciate it more.

Something I noticed was that there was a clear difference in terms of how women were represented in this culture and time in history. From what they wore, how they acted in front of men, to how the men treated them. It opened my eyes when comparing it to cinema today, female actresses now have much more power and equal rights than during the time Godzilla was filmed.

Overall, this movie was the complete opposite of what I’d usually choose to watch and although there were parts that made me slightly cringe, it was an insightful experience to see a cultural and historic film with a thriller story line like Godzilla.


Photo credit:

Harness, J 2010, Special Effects before Computers, Mental Floss, viewed 30th July 2017, <;