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Pablo Bartholomew started experimenting with photography at a very young age. Fascinated by his father’s darkroom, his interests arose at a time when becoming a photographer in Delhi entailed having a camera smuggled in and being capable of handling ones own processing and printing. In recent years, after dropping out of the photojournalistic practice that brought him international recognition, Bartholomew has returned to his own archive of black-and-white images, bringing it out to the public domain.
The photographs regrouped in the series “Outside In” represent Bartholomew’s earliest body of work—a visual diary documenting his inner growth between the ages of 15 and 25, reflecting his personal take on the reality that surrounded him. Intimate portraits of friends and family, as well as of the three cities he lived in—Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta—offer an insider’s look into the Indian underground scene of the late ʼ70s.
For Bartholomew, the importance of showing these snapshots within a contemporary context lies in their historical resonance. With the hippie movement in its prime, Western pop culture had just begun making its way into Indian society; foreign travelers had started to arrive, and along with them, a wave of musical influences that were of paramount importance for Bartholomew at the time. Although not specifically meant to reflect this cross-cultural encounter, “Outside In” is inevitably soaked in it, as we find hints of it in hairstyles, clothes, and poses.
The inner struggle of a young Bartholomew in his teenage hood, feeling ostracised after being kicked out of school for a drug-related incident, prompted him to drift aimlessly with his camera in the streets and in the homes of his friends. The photographer’s process of personal self-making started to parallel and merge with the turning point experienced by the three cities he dwelled in, where the old world still survived amid a shifting existential continuum.
Pablo Bartholomew (Indian, b. 1955) is a photographer who lives and works in New Delhi. He is represented by Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. His upcoming projects include a series of talks and an exhibition at Delhi Photo Festival in October. In January, he will take part to the Dhaka Art Summit.
Francesca Girelli is a curator, researcher and producer at Arthub Asia, as well as Associate Editor of Kaleidoscope Asia.
All images courtesy of the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York