An independent photographer and photojournalist, Pablo Bartholomew’s work spans art, culture, politics and entertainment, and covers street life, counterculture, social issues and national events, across theatre, film, advertising and journalism. He has worked with several prestigious photographic agencies, including Time, LIFE, New York Times, National Geographic and Le Figaro.
Born in New Delhi to art critic Richard Bartholomew and English professor and theatre activist Rati Batra, Bartholomew took to photography at a young age. Dropping out in the ninth grade from the Modern School, New Delhi, he began making photographs of his surroundings, beginning with family and friends, then producing grainy images of the city. His first formal recognition came in 1975, when he became the first South Asian to win the World Press Photo (WPP) award for his series Time is the Mercy of Eternity, which depicted people in India suffering from morphine dependency. He often photographed marginalised communities, such as homeless people, sex workers and transpersons.
To supplement his income, Bartholomew undertook projects in the advertising and film industries, producing stills for Satayjit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1975), Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and Merchant Ivory’s Heat and Dust (1983), among other films, along with working on several local and multinational corporate campaigns. Between film shoots, he photographed the Haka Chinese community in Calcutta (now Kolkata). In the early 1980s, he worked as a photographer for the Red Cross and the United Nations in India.
Bartholomew travelled to Europe in 1983, where he began his long relationship with Paris-based Gamma Liaison Picture Agency, covering conflicts and socio-political upheavals in the Indian subcontinent. He also covered the Nellie massacre of 1983 in Assam for Time magazine. From 1984, he began working as a full-time photojournalist and covered events such as the funeral of Indira Gandhi, the rise of the Khalistan movement and Rajiv Gandhi’s political career. His coverage of the Bhopal gas tragedy earned him his second WPP award in 1985. In 1987, with funding from the Asian Cultural Council in New York, he produced a series in the United States called Indian Émigré.
He continued working in news photography through the 1990s, photographing events such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India. In 1991 and 1995, he received grants from the Times of India and Norway’s Institute of Comparative Studies in Human Culture to document the tribes of northeastern India, during which period he also extensively photographed and filmed the Naga tribes in the region.
Bartholomew began withdrawing from his photojournalism practice in the late-1990s. In 1997, he set up his own company, Media Web, which offered database and digital archiving solutions. He has since also worked as an educator, leading photography workshops in India from 2001–03 with the support of WPP. His work has been shown at Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi; Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai; Bodhi Art Gallery, New York; and India International Centre, New Delhi. In 2014, he was awarded the Padma Shri, followed by the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.
In October 2018, as part of the MeToo movement in India, Bartholomew was accused of sexual misconduct. He has since denied the allegations and asked for the matter to be investigated.
As of writing, he lives and works in New Delhi.
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