Long flannelled trousers, stiff collars raised high, flower garlands around the neck, restless happy bodies and spirits lazing around, lost in smoky hazes…Decors reeking of the modernist surge--polka dots, geometric monochromes, and stark minimalism dominating posh lifestyles--this is the life that gets captured in the lens of the father-son team of Richard and Pablo Bartholomew. For those of us who were not physically present for the retro age, it is precisely such photographic friezes that have shaped our love and fascination for this era.
Pablo Bartholomew is perhaps best known in India and beyond for the image of the dead half-buried child in the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. However, as these photographs attest, he is not a man to perennially wallow in the morbid or the bleak. Instead, his lens hovers over the lives of his friends and family in a delightfully uninhibited myriad moments of intimacy and candor. This was as much the ‘real’ India--perhaps more so--than the infamously grim face he is remembered by; and while most artists sought to capture this other in search for the saleable ‘exotic,’ it was wonderful to see the photographer’s plush and exuberant avatar being celebrated with unapologetic gusto. One could say that while others were busy capturing the exotic as fashionable, Pablo concentrated on capturing the fashionable itself! Call it irony or the magic stroke of the master lens-man, the unique flavor and colorful charm of an era-- the smell and feel of that brilliantly bohemian epoch-- seems to waft in through the photo frames. Even in black and white, a thousand stories are conjured beyond the concrete realm of visual immediacy. Perhaps because his subjects are all known to him, close to him, these photographs may be read as extensions of himself--in love, in agony, in isolation, in the company of friends or simply in pursuit of the self.
-- Paroma Maiti
(Images, from top to bottom: Band Playing at the St. Stephens College Winter Festival, Pablo Bartholomew; Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar & Virender Kumar at a Party, Richard Bartholomew; Katey & Nasseer, Pablo Bartholomew. Images courtesy of Harrington Street Art Center and the artists.)