Mahatma Gandhi is the perfect subject for Peter Rühe's impressive pictorial biography Gandhi
. Not only was Mahatma Gandhi a consciously humble, compassionate man of principle, prepared to die for his lifelong belief in Satyagraha, or non-violent protest, he was also powerfully photogenic. Rühe has been a Gandhi specialist and visual archivist for nearly 20 years and has compiled his gallery mostly from the vast collections of Kanu Gandhi, a great-nephew, and Vithalbhai Jhaveri, former member of the Indian National Movement. After studying law in England, Gandhi spent two decades in South Africa, where he trained for the rest of his life, his activism fully ignited by the Black Act of 1906, forcing Indians to register. From 1921, the familiar visual identity starts to emerge: lean, bespectacled and unblinking, head shaved, and clad in loincloth and chaddar
(a sheet worn as a wrap), in response to the Foreign Cloth Boycott. Influenced by Western writers such as John Ruskin, Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy, he became deeply pained by the impotence of his teachings in the face of Nazi slaughter of the Jews, but India, and its Purna Swaraj, remained his true passion. However, when independence came, on 14 August 1947, he only saw failure with the establishment of independent states of India and Pakistan, and the religious violence that ensued.
Aside from the wonderful historical photography of the Salt March of 1930, his rallies where the audience disappears into the horizon, and his constantly frail, often fasting, physical state, the most poignant selections show Gandhi adhering to the simple life he espoused: eating, shaving, spinning, travelling and speaking, or with unbearable pathos, watching over his dead wife's body. Quirky gems include meeting Charlie Chaplin in London's East End, giving a "silent message" on his habitual day of silence to reporters who busily seem to scribble it down, and, after his assassination, his funeral procession being given, with grim irony, a military salute. While Louis Fischer's The Life of Mahatma Gandhi provides an authoritative, contextualised analysis, Gandhi frames his extraordinary life with a simplicity and warmth that goes some way to explaining the reverence he inspired, and why, when he died, Nehru spoke not just for India in lamenting that "the light has gone out of our lives". --David Vincent
This book allows us an intimate insight into the life of one of the 20th century's great figures. -- The Sunday Times Magazine, September 9, 2001
This collection of rare photography provides a strong, intimate, entertaining, and moving documentary... -- India in New York, July 13, 2001
This is an unusual Gandhi book as it is essentially a photographic record of Gandhi's life produced by an art publisher. -- The Gandhi Way, No. 69, Autumn 2001
We have now in one volume a magnificent, luminous collection of photographs of Gandhi... -- Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2001