Pablo Bartholomew is an accomplished photographer who, over a career spanning forty years, has documented societies in conflict and transition around the world while also recording the intimate details of his own generation maturing in a changing India. Nature Morte is pleased to present a new body of work by the photographer which expands his repertoire substantially. First exhibited as part of the Dhaka Art Summit in February 2016, “Memento Mori” ventures into both abstraction and conceptualism and can be seen as a meditation on both time and loss.
As keeper of both his father’s oeuvre of over 17,000 negatives as well as his own practice (the consequence of a four-decade-long engagement with photography) Bartholomew has been forced to assume the role of archivist. In 1986 he was commissioned by National Geographic to photograph the monumental effort of 15,000 Bangladeshi men who had to physically close the mouth of the Feni River to control flooding and create a freshwater reservoir for irrigation over a seven-hour intertidal marathon, thus building the largest dam in the country. Bartholomew had stored the Kodachrome slides from the assignment in a box on the topmost shelf of one of the cupboards in his apartment. In 2014, he detected the aftermath of a leak that had its source in the apartment upstairs that had rendered the area damp and humid. He climbed a ladder to investigate and was horrified to discover that these original slides had been feasted on by termites that had colonized the cardboard box. The images they had borne had become abstract and unrecognizable; nature seems to have interceded to create entirely new works of art.
“Memento Mori” is Bartholomew’s attempt at resurrecting the corpses of his images, albeit fully conscious of their irreversible state of mutation. In enlarging and presenting these ruins, he restores the intimacy and immediacy of their contents while exposing the futility of the human attempt at preservation. In the exhibition of these images, Bartholomew extends the scope of the series to present visual meditations on the fragility of material things and our own selves.
Born in New Delhi in 1955, Pablo Bartholomew is a self-taught photographer who started taking pictures in the documentary tradition in his early teens. His first solo exhibitions were at the Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi in 1979 and the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1980. Subsequently he has had over 30 solo shows of his work in galleries and museums around the world and has participated in the most important festivals of photography. For his series on morphine addicts, created at age 19, he was awarded First Prize for Photo Stories by the Press Institute of India and in 1976 by the World Press Photo. In 1985 he won the World Press Photo Picture of the Year award for his iconic image of the burial of a child victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy. His photographs have been published in The New York Times, Time, Life, National Geographic, Figaro Magazine, Paris Match, The Guardian, The Observer Magazine, and other international newspapers and periodicals. Bartholomew was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2013 for his contributions to photography. In 2014 he was conferred with the Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government.