Pablo Batholomew

Image making – Illusion or reality.
Are they two sides of the same coin?

My talk and ensuing discussion will incorporate inputs from some key participants attending the festival as well as from the larger audience after a process of walking them through the realities and the rules of documentary and photojournalistic ethics implicit in the act of taking photographs.
In recent years, the world of editorial, documentary and photojournalism has been ridden by controversy; from heavy-handed, over-worked images that have been entered in photojournalistic competitions and have even won, only to draw flack later, and to photographers whose work has come to light when older and newer versions of the same images have shown a marked difference as elements like wires, light poles and other intrusions, including entire human bodies have been taken out of their frames in the pursuit of re-creating a presumably better image, of photographers that have been fired by their employers or freelancers being disassociated from news organisations due to the alterations they made to their filed images from the field.
On another level, the talk will also address a recent phenomenon where artists have embraced the medium of photography and used image-manipulation tools, some incorporated multiple layered images, or have used posed and performative elements to create work with total freedom, all of which constitutes a different form of freedom of photographic expression.
How, then, is the viewer expected to read different kinds of work while understanding what they are looking at? How must a viewer react to the work within this complex framework where what seems authentic is easily contestable? The endeavour is not to be judgmental or to privilege one form of expression as being better than the other but to be able to show and talk about the different ways photographic work is created and how it has evolved, and to try and fill in the gaps of the larger public knowledge base and perception of these viewers. This, I hope, will bring them up to speed with the ever changing imaging world; its pleasures and perils, especially at a time when just about everyone with a cellphone can be considered a legitimate image-maker.


Pablo Bartholomew is a self-taught photographer based in New Delhi. Abandoning his artistic black and white work done during his teenage to late twenties embarked on a successful career as a photojournalist where he documented societies in conflict and transition for over 20 years. He is a three-time World Press Photo Award winner (including the 1984 “Picture of the Year” for his iconic image of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy) and He was awarded the Padma Shri — among India’s highest civilian honours — in 2013 and in 2014 he was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres one of the highest cultural honors from France.
Editorially his work has been featured in publications like The New York Times, Time, Life, Newsweek, Business Week, National Geographic, Geo, Der Spiegel, Figaro Magazine, Paris Match, Telegraph, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian, and Observer Magazine.
His first solo exhibitions of personal work where shown with galleries like Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi, (1979) and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, (1980) featured photographs that captured the marginal, fringe worlds in which he lived. Returning to his hidden archive he has created exhibitions like A Tale of 3 Cities, dating from the 70’s to the early 80’s. Paralleling the practice of photographers such as Nan Goldin and Larry Clark, this body of work articulates a wider historical moment through the artist’s personal experience and has exhibited at galleries, museums and art and photo festivals in Arles, London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Dhaka, Tokyo, Shanghai, Winterthur, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata & Pondicherry among others across India and the the world.
He is currently continuing his long-term project on Indian émigrés, alongside discovering his Burmese roots and working on his father Richard Bartholomew’s photographic and literary archives.