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Ram Rahman

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1955, New Delhi
Lives and works in New Delhi

Ram Rahman is an Indian photographer, curator and social activist. His photographs capture the neglected sections of the Indian society. His keen eye for details combines with his deep rooted social awareness to create lasting images of intense humanism. His work in graphic design and architecture photography are also noteworthy.  He is known for his involvement in Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) organization that strives against communal and sectarian powers.



Master of Fine Arts, Yale University School of Art, USA


Bachelor of Science in Art and Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

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Rahman was one of the early exponents of photography in India

He arrived at a time when photography was just beginning to be taken seriously in India. His mostly black and white photographs are sedate, pensive and poignant. They focus mostly on the Indian hinterlands and on the most downtrodden and neglected sections of society. His socio-political leanings clearly get reflected in his work. His photographs of Anti-Sikh Riots of 1984 are as haunting as his writings on Gujarat Riots in 2002.

Ram Rahman, Sikh Riots, Delhi, 1984, photograph

Mixed religious background has helped him explore the world from a different perspective

His father was an architect and mother was danseuse with part American ancestry. He studied physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology but went on to get a degree in graphics design from Yale. Such diverse formative experiences have had a profound impact on his work. His background also helped him in graphic arts, as can be seen in many of the SAHMAT poster designs.

Ram Rahman, Sahmat, Cultural Attack Poster, 2004, graphics

Not only is he an artist but a curator and writer also

As a curator, he has managed several collections and exhibitions. A lot of them concerning with old and vintage photographs with an intention to showcase and preserve them. Rahman has also authored several books mostly concerning art and ambition. Among others, he has authored a book on Sunil Janah, a pioneering Indian photographer and has also curated a show of his photographs in the past. He has also chronicled his association with SAHMAT and its activities over two decades through several curated shows and assorted books.

Panels from the Exhibition "Sunil Janah - Photographing India 1939-1972", New York

As an activist with SAHMAT, he put his artistic skills to multiple use

Photographer and art curator Ram Rahman is probably known better for his association with Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), an organization he founded with the likes of Habib Tanvir, Bhishm Sahani and Vivan Sundaram. It is an organization that strives against communal and sectarian powers of the society and is named after theatre activist Safdar Hashmi, who was once assassinated in broad daylight for doing exactly that. So, this background to some extent defines the nature and motivation of Ram Rahman’s work. In fact one of his most famous photographs is the one taken at the funeral of Hashmi. He also designed various posters for SAHMAT.

Ram Rahman, The Funeral of Safdar Hashmi, 1989, photograph

In his photographs he chronicles an antique land.

Rahman is involved in projects that seek to preserve the deep rooted culture and traditions of the country. For instance, he is involved in Project 365 which seeks to photograph and preserve the glimpses of the ancient Indian culture and lifestyle, focusing on the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He is interested in encouraging public art projects so as to take art to the masses, especially in the rural areas. It is part of Rahman’s larger ambition to use photographs as historical documents and develop a visual archiving culture in India.

View of Tiruvannamalai with Annamalaiyar temple towers in the centre and hills in the background​