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4-min read

From Photo Master to Prime Minister: Tracking Narendra Modi's 3-Decade Journey as a PM

Modi's photography skills were first seen by his party workers in 1988, a year after he moved from the RSS to the BJP and scripted party's first victory in Ahmedabad municipal elections.

Brajesh Kumar Singh | News18

Updated:May 28, 2019, 10:07 PM IST
From Photo Master to Prime Minister: Tracking Narendra Modi's 3-Decade Journey as a PM
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Only a handful people know that besides being an able administrator, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an excellent photographer. This hobby of the PM is nearly three decades old. From witnessing photography undergo a change to practicing various photo techniques himself, PM Modi often picks up the camera for recreation.

The prime minister's photography skills were first seen by his party workers in 1988, a year after he moved from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the BJP and scripted party's first victory in Ahmedabad municipal elections. That year, PM Modi embarked on Kailash Mansarovar yatra, at a time when residents of Gujarat seldom went out of the state.

Besides the spiritual and traditional significance of the pilgrimage, the 38-year-old youth wanted people to see the serene beauty of the mountains. In those days, people had heard about the place but only a few got an opportunity to visit it. The then BJP worker, Modi, wanted to show his colleagues Lake Manasarovar and the tranquility of the hills.


After returning from the yatra, it was time for Gujarat BJP general secretary Narendra Modi to let BJP workers know that he was not only the master of politics but also photography. He wasn't just an amateur photographer but one who could showcase his hobby through transparency sheet. He had specially clicked photographs using this medium so that they could be converted into slides and shown to party colleague through a projector. Modi wanted his experience to be felt by all — those who couldn't go on the yatra due to some sort of constraint or those would never be able to go on the pilgrimage.


Under the banner of 'Club of Karnawati', the then Gujarat BJP general secretary held his photo exhibition, at a time when printing pictures on transparency film sheets were not common. During the 1980s, people used photo reels that were taken out as photographs after exposing the negative strips, while the 'transparency' was directly clicked as positive.

Modi's Kailash-Mansarovar photographs left people stunned. Not only were his colleagues impressed but also the professional photographers.





(Pictures clicked by PM Modi)

Narendra Modi has always been a techno freak. He continued to keep himself updated on the changes taking place in the style and techniques of photography. When Ahmedabad-based photographer Shailesh Rawal wrote a book on photography, he mentioned about Modi and also shared pictures taken by the BJP leader in this narrative. The headline of the chapter reads as 'From CM to PM'. However, here, the reference to CM is in context of 'Common Man' and PM indicates 'Photo Master'.

According to Rawal, when Lal Krishna Advani fought his first Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar seat in 1991, Narendra Modi was juggling between political work as Gujarat BJP general secretary and enhancing skills as a photographer.

In those days, Modi owned a 'Yashica SLR' camera. It wasn't an automatic camera that would click a perfect picture by just pressing a button. SLR cameras were used only by people who knew in detail about aperture, shutter, flash, lens and other photography techniques in order to adjust these in the right manner before taking a picture.

Even when digital cameras arrived in the markets, Modi was as enthusiastic about the new equipment as he was about the older versions of the camera. From Pentax K1000 to Canon Mark III camera, the BJP leader adapted the changes in the photography world and its development.

He is so passionate about photography that he can discuss the subject for hours — from lighting to frame and composition. On several important occasions, Modi has clicked pictures himself. When BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi embarked on 'Ekta Yatra' from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, the Gujarat BJP leader, who was accompanying Joshi, clicked pictures on the way.

Even when Modi became the chief minister, he did not give up his passion for photography. Now and then, he used to take photographs — whether it was during a katha at Morari Bapu's Karnawati Club in Ahmedabad or the launch of hot air balloons near Kankaria lake. There was no stopping for the BJP leader when it came to photography. Whenever he held a camera, it was never for a picture or two but ended only after taking nearly 50 photographs.

For 13 years, when Modi held the post of Gujarat chief minister between 2001 to 2014, cameramen of the state got a glimpse of 'Photographer Modi' at least once a year during 'sneh milan' programme held at CM's residence after Diwali. Several ministers, BJP leaders, workers and journalists were invited for the event.

The then Gujarat CM used to take the camera of a photo-journalist and try his hands at it. Often photographers used to request Modi to click pictures with their cameras and the leader always obliged them.


Modi also shared cordial relations with top-notch photographers of Gujarat and Delhi. From Zaverilal Mehta to Raghu Rai, Bhagwan Singh and Bandeep Singh, he remained in touch with the celebs of the photography world.

After becoming the prime minister, Modi seldom gets an opportunity to follow his passion but even now, he never disappoints the photographers. May be, he still feels a part of their community.

For the last five years, PM Modi has been the centre of attraction for every lens. He knows what's on a photographer's mind while clicking, and often helps the cameramen by giving picture-perfect expressions. Unaware of the PM's generosity, the photographer considers Modi's candid shots his feat.


Whether it is the occasion of selecting him the leader of NDA at Parliament's central hall or bowing down to the Constitution or holding a meeting outside BJP office in Ahmedabad's Khanpur, as a subject, Modi knows what the photographer standing in front him is looking for in the object.

PM Modi never disappoints lensmen because he has himself knows the nitty-gritties of a camera; has experienced the pain of the eyes behind it and the anxiety and excitement of the person taking the photograph.

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| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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