Caricature of photojournalist Praveen Jain.

Praveen Jain: Capturing Politicians & Their Secrets In His Camera

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
Jain was thrashed by the cops who saw him clicking. But he hid in the bushes and clicked these pictures.
(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
He didn’t know it, but these people would later be killed.

Praveen specialises in political mood photography. In almost every picture, we see the real person behind the garb of the politician.

(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
Natural crowd puller: Lalu Prasad Yadav.
(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
PM Modi when he was the BJP J&K incharge in 1992.
(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
A rare photo of the two estranged cousins, Priyanka and Varun, holding hands.
(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
Maneka Gandhi on the threshold of formally entering politics, with her son Varun.
(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
An emotional Priyanka Gandhi with her father Rajiv Gandhi’s picture on a brochure.

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'.

(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
‘Sleeping PM’, HD Deve Gowda.
“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.

(Photo Courtesy: Praveen Jain)
Lalu with Rabri and sons Tejaswi and Tej Pratap in his brother’s servants’ quarters.

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.