Gautam Rajadhyaksha (b. 1950; d. 2011)
A fashion photographer and celebrity portraitist working across Mumbai’s film industry, fashion magazines and advertising, Gautam Rajadhyaksha is known for establishing the role of photography in publicising the lives of filmstars in conjunction with the worlds of fashion and media.
Born in Mumbai, Rajadhyaksha received his school education from St. Xavier’s High School. He went on to study chemistry at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, following which he got a job at Lintas India Limited, an advertising agency.
Rajadhyaksha began his tenure as the Head of the Photo Services Department and eventually became the Creative Director. At the agency, he was instrumental in conceptualising and producing advertising campaigns for popular brands such as Liril, Rexona, Rin, Surf Excel and Fair N’ Lovely. In addition to his work in commercial advertising, he was also involved in two public awareness campaigns led by Alyque Padamsee: Save the Tiger in 1973 and the “Sukhdi” Food Programme for drought relief in 1973–74. Between 1985–87, Rajadhyaksha produced advertisements and publicity materials for the Government of India’s Trade Development Authority.
His work as a photographer ran parallel to his career in advertising. He began with photographing portfolio shots of the actress Shabana Azmi. Thereafter, his interest in photography was encouraged by his cousin, the writer and model Shobhaa De. Rajadhyaksha joined her magazine, Celebrity, for which he not only photographed celebrities but also conducted interviews with them, an underdeveloped practice in Indian magazine publishing until then.
As his reputation grew, Rajadhyaksha quit advertising and took up professional photography full-time. His photographs and writing were published in magazines such as Stardust, Illustrated Weekly of India and Society. In 1985, he set up Chanderi, a Marathi entertainment magazine that sought to counter the tabloid format and included commentary on Marathi cinema, theatre and music as well as developments in India and the world. It also discussed aspects of film and media production such as cinematography, screenwriting, sound engineering and direction. Additionally, his column in the Lokamudra supplement, published by the Marathi daily Loksatta between December 2000 and August 2003, was widely read.
Besides writing in dailies and in magazines, Rajadhyaksha also wrote two Bollywood films– Bekhudi (1992) and Anjaam (1994). He also wrote the Marathi film Sakhi (2007). Rajadhyaksha was associated with Bollywood production houses such as Rajashri and Dharma Productions and produced still images and publicity campaigns for over a dozen films, beginning with Maine Pyaar Kiya (1988) and leading up to Baghban (2003).
Rajadhyaksha’s popularity as a portraitist was tied to his distinctive style. He focused on his subject’s faces and took photographs in soft-focus with gentle lighting, creating an ethereal effect. Besides photographing film stars and fashion models such as Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan and Sonali Bendre, he also photographed sportsmen, musicians, politicians, and industrialists including Sachin Tendulkar, JRD Tata, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. In 1997, Rajadhyaksha brought out his first photo book, Faces, carrying photographs of 45 Indian actresses, and tracing Bollywood’s history from Durga Khote to Aishwarya Rai. His second book, Chehere (2010), carried 70 portraits and was written in Marathi.
Rajadhyaksha’s work has been widely exhibited. He held solo shows in San Francisco and Dubai in 1989, and in Birmingham in 1998. A 650-picture retrospective of his work, titled Chehere, travelled India through 2000–2001. In 2007, he exhibited his portraits in London to commemorate 75 years of Indian cinema.
Throughout his career, Rajadhyaksha was a mentor to young photographers. In 2011, he collaborated with the Symbiosis Institute in Pune, which started its photography school with a curriculum developed by him.
Rajadhyaksha passed away at his home in Mumbai on September 13, 2011 due to a cardiac arrest.
“Ace Photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha passes away.” Hindustan Times, September 14, 2011. https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai/ace-photographer-gautam-rajadhyaksha-passes-away/story-kbIpgCH89NbABw9QLTGENM.html
Ansari, Shabana. “Ace celebrity photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha no more.” DNA, September 14, 2011. https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-ace-celebrity-photographer-gautam-rajadhyaksha-no-more-1586527
Chavarkar, Mangesh. “Mr. Gautam Rajadyaksha’s Careerscape and Contribution.” Accessed online, March 16, 2022. https://pub.ist.ac.at/~kchatterjee/grfaces.pdf
De, Shobhaa. “Gautam Rajadhyaksha: The Man Who Saw Beauty.” Forbes India, September 26, 2011. https://www.forbesindia.com/article/recliner/gautam-rajadhyaksha-the-man-who-saw-beauty/28752/1
Gaikwad, Rahi. “Photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha dead.” The Hindu, September 13, 2011. https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/photographer-gautam-rajadhyaksha-dead/article2450383.ece
N, Patcy. “‘Gautam Rajadhyaksha’s loss is a huge loss to photography.’” Rediff.com, September 16, 2011. https://www.rediff.com/movies/report/mickey-contractor-on-gautam-rajadhyaksha/20110916.htm