Index World Press Photo
February 2008 | Edition Nine     
For many years, Kishor Parekh was one of India’s foremost photo journalists though he was not always based in his native country.

He served as an inspiration and role model for many younger photographers hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Pablo Bartholomew was one of them and here profiles the man who pioneered photo stories in the Indian press.

Kishor was a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. Running into the eye of the storm was his style.

At least that’s the way I remember him from my teenage days in the 1970’s, the man who occasionally took me out from my high school to be his assistant, helping to carry his bags on shoots around New Delhi.

India was a young nation, thirsty for new expression.

For six years from 1961, as Chief Photographer for New Delhi’s premier newspaper the Hindustan Times, Kishor fought for his photos rather than go with the flow at a time when the photographer was just an accompaniment to the journalist. Editorially, images were not valued and he wrestled with all around him to make the change.

Finishing his Masters in filmmaking and documentary photography studies at the University of Southern California in 1960, Kishor had already won numerous awards.

A year later returning to India, he grappled with editors and colleagues to create a space and niche for his photos.

It was unheard for a photo to run across eight columns on the front page. But Kishor won his battles, not because of any personal chemistry with the owners of Hindustan Times but because of reader response to his sensitive images.

Introducing the idea of the picture story to India, he was deeply influenced by the work of Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Margaret Bourke-White.

He was hip and suave and yet a street fighter when needed. In the post-colonial 1960’s with India at war with neighbors China (1962) and Pakistan (1965) and with hunger and famine still dogging the nation – including the Bihar Famine of 1966 - Kishor proved his mettle.

The strong emotional images of the horrors of the famine were used to fund raise with exhibitions in Mumbai (Bombay) and Los Angeles in the US.

He closely documented the political lives of India’s politicians and leaders, photographing first Prime Minister Nehru till his death in 1964.

It was reported that Kishor’s persistence once led to Nehru slapping him down.

Early one morning, when he was photographing Nehru at prayer at the Gandhi Samadhi, the Prime Minister thought Kishor was too close and i