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The Author's Voice

by Peter Rühe

Although acknowledged as one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century it has been difficult to get a proper visual impression of Mahatma Gandhi so far in lack of adequate photographic material. One reason for this was that the most comprehensive photo collection of over 9,000 photographs was possessed by Vithalbhai K. Jhaveri, a Mumbai-based biographer of Gandhi. Some of these photographs Jhaveri used for his own exhibitions, films and publications in India, but the majority of images had never been exposed to the public. After Jhaveri's death in 1985, I visited his estate in Mumbai and found the photographs stuffed in a huge wooden overseas trunk on a terrace next to the seashore. Due to the high humidity in Mumbai some photographs were already damaged beyond repair. Jhaveri's family agreed to give the - just - surviving photographs a preservation treatment and to catalogue them scientifically. As none of the Indian institutions approached was prepared to do the needful the photographs were sent to me to Germany where I did the necessary works within five years.

A similar fate had Kanu Gandhi's collection which is the second largest photo collection on Mahatma Gandhi. In 1985 I met Kanu Gandhi at his home in Rajkot (Gujarat/India). Proudly he showed me his precious photographs. After Kanu Gandhi's death in the following year I paid a condolence visit to his widow Abha, who was known as one of the two 'living walking sticks' Gandhi used to lean on during the last years of his life, and in whose arms Gandhi died. During Kanu Gandhi's life nobody was allowed to enter his photo lab. Now, after his death, it needed to be cleared. When asked what she was going to do with the thousands of photographs of Gandhi laying around in shelves, cupboards and even on the floor, Abha said that she would throw them away as they were of no use for her, because she lived with Gandhi and therefore does not need photographs in order to remember those precious days with Bapu (father). I convinced her not to do so as for others these photographs would be valuable in order to get a realistic picture of the Mahatma. Then an arrangement was found to preserve the photographs and negatives which document Gandhi's later life in the most remarkable way.

For this book images of those two major collections were carefully selected and completed by photographs from 19 additional sources by the picture editor Sophie Spencer-Wood. The historical research was done by Terence McNamee.

This book has been dedicated to the conscience of humanity. May it contribute to a culture of peace and nonviolence which is so badly needed to save this planet!