Thursday, 16 July 2009

My friend Pablo!

I did a fair amount of photography when I was young and carry the love of it with me forever. Till today black and white photography is what I personally prefer, but if it is the Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura then let the rainbow shine over my universe eternally! Exhibitions of photographs are not common in India with very few galleries choosing to represent photographers in a sustained manner. It was through Mr. Alkazi that I first saw a collector's passion and the presentation of an exquisite selection of photographs, curated by him, at Oxford in England in 1983. It was in this intimate group exhibition that I saw Pablo Bartholomew's black and white series on a heroin addict, and knew in that instant that he is one of India's finest photographers. I only got to meet him in 1987 through another photographer, who used to tease me about my bias for Pablo's work over his own!

A valuable lesson I learnt from Prof. Jyoti Bhatt was that is isn't always necessarily to have expensive equipment and updated photographic gizmo to take a great photo. What you need is a sensibility and an eye that sees beyond the obvious. Pablo projects himself as the rakish enfant terrible, and would hate for any one to dispel this image about him; but his body of work over the years exposes a sensitivity with which he looks at his subjects where exploitation never occurs, despite the voyeurism of the camera.

Outside In , 70's & 80's, a tale of three cities....2008 ...National Museum Janpath Delhi. This exhibition came as a relief for me at a time where I had already voiced my concerns about the repetition that was choking the art scene in India in the name of "global" art. One video installation after another, one national geographic image blown up bigger than the other, and a coterie of curators with the sameness of ideas protracted and spoken in different voices, in some ways is the flavour of the time in a rather mindless way. Pablo's show gave to the urban viewer something that belonged to you too. He also gave to you his own experiences knowing that in them lies the history of a specific time and culture that is authentic and real, and which has never been chronicled by us as our history.

When an artist looks at their subject it always becomes a mirror of themselves in some oblique manner. Pablo's works from this exhibition showcases a segment of urban Indian reality which has rarely been examined by the generation in India that experienced it. An India that was no longer the khadi generation of independence and vande mataram but the khadi generation of flower power and the Beatles music. These images, grainy and sometimes out of focus, hold a supressed violence that is coupled with a tenderness that stays with you long after the image fades from your retina. I am waiting for a publisher to bring out a comprehensive book on this photographer. He is a legend in the making.

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