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JULY 13, 2001

Photo-Biography of Mahatma Gandhi
From News Dispatches

Gandhiji recuperating at the house of Rev. J.J. Doke, his first biographer, in Smith Street, Durban, after being assaulted by Mir Alam, Feb. 10, 1908. The photograph was taken on Feb. 18.

When asked to put his philosophy in words, the Mahatma once laconically remarked "My life is my message." No wonder then that his life has been the subject of numerous books, plays and movies in both India and the West.

Now Phaedon Press is in the process of providing, what the former Vienna-based art publisher describes as, "the first Comprehensive, visual reference work on the life and work of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi."

"Gandhi: A Photo-Biography," due to be out in the fall, will feature 400 or so black and white photographs derived primarily from two main collections: the photo-archives of Gandhi's biographer Vithalbhai Jhaveri and those of Gandhi's great grand nephew Kanu Gandhi.

Jhaveri chose for his life's work the enormous task of collecting photographs of Gandhi from soirces around the world. Kanu Gandhi lived with the Mahatma for the last 12 years of the his life and was the only person to whom Gandhi was known to have given permission to photograph him. As Kanu Gandhi later recalled, Gandhi did, however, insist on three conditions: India's freedom movement would not finance the project, there would be no flash photography, and no posed pictures. Kanu Gandhi's collection is, therefore, a precious and intimate view of the private side of Gandhi's life.

The author and editor of the photo-biography, Peter Ruhe, who lives in Berlin and in Mumbai, is a specialist in the conservation of visual material concerning Gandhi. In 1983 he founded the Gandhi Information Center in Germany. In 1988, he began preparation for what is now the largest photo-archive on Gandhi and India's freedom movement. He has also served as director of research for the documentary on Gandhi by Ketan Mehta. Ruhe established Gandhiserve in 1988, a non-profit organization dedicated to the spread of the ethics of nonviolence by disseminating information and popularizing Gandhi's life and works.

Amanda Mendoza, Phaidon's spokesperson in New York ( Phaidon Press, founded in 1923, had to move out of Vienna with Adolph Hitler's takeover of Austria; it now has branches in New York, London, Paris and Berlin), said that this collection "of rare and never before seen photography provide a strong, intmate, entertaining, and moving documentary of both the public and the private man."

Stressing the integral relationship of his philosophy to his life, Ruhe writes; "The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi cannot be defined by a single act or idea. Most great personalities throughout history have left their mark through specific works of art, inventions, philosophyies, or battles. Gandhi's entire life is his claim to greatness.

"His legacy might have waned had it been based merely on his ideas and thoughts. But what distinguishes Gandhi was that he never failed to put theory into practice. He once renarked that 'action is my domain' and throughout his life his words were authenticated because of the consistency of the thought and the deed."
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